11 Things To Help You On Twitter

I have been working on some simple tools for nonprofits and other organizations to use to get set up with social media. (You’ll see more on that later.) As I do that, I’ve been making lists — checklists, resource lists, and more. Some of those seem like they might be useful to share on their own.

Twitter me this 119/365 by Flickr user SashaW
"Twitter me this 119/365" by Flickr user SashaW

Lots of organizations get set up with a Twitter account and then say, “Now what?” So here are eleven things your organization can do to use Twitter effectively. These aren’t necessarily “best practices” and they certainly aren’t the only things. But, if you are hitting these bases, you can be fairly confident that your Twitter account is at a minimum at “respectable beginner” stage. From there you can grow it even more.

So, without further ado:

  1. Use an avatar with a face or logo. This is the first and most important thing you can do once you sign up for Twitter. No one trusts, likes, or pays attention to a Twitter user who uses the stock “bird” image. Here’s what I mean. Use a logo or a head shot? It depends. If the account is the main account for the whole organizations, use its logo. If the account is for a manager of the organization, and there is also an organizational account, consider using a head shot. (Make sure the head shot has a “snapshot” feel and not a professional feel.)
  2. Create a Twitter background with key information including Twitter names of staff. Under settings/design you can upload an image to use as your background. This can be worthwhile. Use an inexpensive image editing program (like Paint Shop Pro) to create a background that includes key contact information. Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra) has a great example.
  3. Create a Twitter list for your organization. If there are other staffers at your organization, create a Twitter list that lists all of them. For instance, here is the list of all writers for the Chronicle of Philanthropy who have Twitter accounts. That does two things. First, it lets people know who’s in your organization. It also encourages the followers of those people to click on the list (“Huh, Joe Blow is on this new list. Who else is on it?”) and find your organization’s Twitter stream.
  4. Create and use a hashtag. A hashtag is just a word that begins with the pound sign: “#word.” In Twitter, people use them to mark subjects. For our blog about Rockville, MD, we created the #rkv tag to denote news about anything happening in (natch) Rockville. Now other people are using it too. This has created a community on Twitter, and also gives us something to monitor to find new and breaking information.
  5. Find and monitor relevant hashtags. By the same token, in your field there are probably already hashtags that others are using. (For instance, #philanthropy.) It is useful to monitor those to keep up on what others are talking about.
  6. Reply, retweet, answer – don’t just publish. Do not, do not, do not just use your Twitter account to publish blog posts or press releases. You will find it very difficult to gain followers that way. People want a human feel, they want interaction. Use the “@” symbol to reply to other Twitter users, add in light hearted comments here and there. “ReTweet” the posts of others. Social media rewards sharing, and it penalizes selfishness. How to retweet? Just add “RT @name” to the beginning of someone’s tweet!
  7. Make your tweets retweetable. It is to your benefit when others share your content. Make it easy on them! Make sure your updates use punchy headlines, and are no longer than 120 characters, to leave room for others to add their own info when retweeting.
  8. Create a spreadsheet to track over time, weekly or monthly: Followers, following, references, @replies, retweets. This can help you stay on track. It’s really easy to set up. It’s also useful to use Twittercounter to keep track of stats.
  9. Use Tweetgrid to monitor your organization and space. There are lots of monitoring tools available, but Tweetgrid is my favorite and it’s free. Dead simple to use. You pick your layout, and then put a search term into each window. Tweetgrid creates a little real-time search on that term. Look for mentions of your name, your competitors, and keywords related to your space. For instance, here’s a grid I set up for myself.
  10. Use keywords to decide whom to follow. Using the Tweetgrid you set up above, you can see who is using the terms you are searching on. Consider following them. Eventually, you will be following too many people to keep track of easily. Create Twitter lists of people who are the real influencers you need to watch.
  11. Use URL shorteners. When you share links in Twitter, don’t use the full link. Shorten it first by using bit.ly or another url shortener. Why? Two reasons. First, it saves space (see suggestion #7 above). But — just as important — people tend to frown on full links because they are the mark of a newbie.

Watch this space for more tips for other types of social media, as well as more information on my upcoming eBook wrapping it all up.

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