Why wait until January 1 to make a resolution that will improve your nonprofit communications and fundraising? Here’s a suggestion for an “October resolution”—make a concerted effort now to improve your use of Twitter, and by year end you’ll have a much stronger, more effective outreach (and listening) tool working for you.
To be honest, let’s admit that most of us use Twitter because we think we’re supposed to, demonstrating our willingness to employ social media. However, many nonprofits’ Twitter accounts are neglected or unfocused. There’s a massive amount of messaging out there spanning a very wide range of value and usefulness; encoders get lost amid the noise and decoders are easily overwhelmed.
1. Define your purpose. If your goal is to build your brand, then be precise in what that brand premise is (at RMA, we strive to reinforce the message that we are a handy resource for quick and usable information for nonprofit leaders). Think of this as following a recipe. You don’t go into the kitchen now and then and dump items randomly into a bowl, do you–what would the result be? Think of your tweets as being meaningful, directly related “ingredients” of what you are preparing. Your goal might also be advocated for a specific cause or reform. Be specific.
2. Take a conscious approach to not just using Twitter as an outbound tool but as a means to listen to what people are thinking about. One nonprofit executive we know literally books 30 minutes of time each week to do nothing but explore what’s current or controversial in her industry. Define this as an “appointment” and spend this time in a focused and deliberate manner, choosing carefully whose Twitter feed or blog to follow. Make a few notes for a speech, presentation, or staff meeting. Then stop. The opposite approach (and we’ve all done it) is to meander online mindlessly without regard to the value of your time.
3. Make sure your @TwitterName is obvious or intuitive to people you are trying to reach, or the ones you hope will be looking for you. Promote it on all your other materials, especially in your email signature.
4. It’s about focus. Choose several keywords or phrases that most directly represent what you are about and want to be known for, i.e., #girlseducation. Use these keywords often in your messages and also in your titles. Learn to use hashtags by adding the “#” symbol with your phrases, which go a long way to helping you connect with people of similar interests. The experts recommend no more than two hashtags per tweet.
5. Be interesting—create and tweet original content. You aren’t likely going to create a useful Twitter profile just following and retweeting others. At RMA Strategies, we routinely weave our own TIPS with articles or quotations from those we admire. Headlines are critical—use statistics, “How to,” or even just “You..” to draw people in.
6. When you retweet content that fits your purpose and “recipe,” add your own comment first.
7. Be selective to stay within your defined purpose. If you have several different causes to promote, then have separate Twitter accounts. Don’t be a jack of all topics and material, but master of none.
8. Embed links to photos or video that demonstrate your impact, but be sure to describe or tease their unique value in the characters you have. (“This is really great” is not very compelling.)
9. Give your account personality—a point of view. Done well, your Twitter account is an excellent embodiment of your brand, so it needs to be passionate, even provocative, and well-informed. Humor is fine, but stick to your defined purpose and the focus of a specific audience.
10. Keep learning. Here are three articles we recommend for further consideration, with a few highlights pulled out:
Forbes’ Ken Krogue writes about business sales but whose advice is definitely applicable to nonprofits who are not sure how to build their Twitter muscle. He de-mystifies some of the tactics and tricks, not passing judgment on the many organizations that are using Twitter half-heartedly.
The follow-first rule: I follow you then (hopefully) you follow me. This is by far the most common way to get followers. Twitter puts limits on how many users you can follow. Here are the guidelines: “Every account can follow 2,000 users total. Once you’ve followed 2,000 users, there are limits to the number of additional users you can follow. This number is different for each account and is based on your ratio of followers to following; this ratio is not published.”
The favorites-follower rule: I click ‘favorite’ on your Tweet, then you follow me. This method helps you gain targeting following by first finding Tweets that match your interests and targeted keywords. Then you click ‘favorite’ and often they reciprocate. This takes more time, but gives you a much higher quality and engaged following.
The offer-follower rule: You follow me, I give you something: information, ebook, etc. Make sure to give away something that your target audience will value. Make it easy for people to claim their reward.
Craft really great headlines with keywords. Your headlines have the greatest impact on how many people share and read your content. Lists: Headlines with numbers in them consistently perform well, i.e., 7 Undeniable Reasons People LOVE List Posts. How to: “How to” titles promise a benefit to your readers. Target a Shark: Refer to a shark, which can be an important company or person in your industry. This allows you to feed off the shark’s popularity to call attention to your content, i.e., What Bill Gates teaches us about philanthropy.
Not Retweeting. Only 1.5% of tweets are retweeted. This low figure indicates your opportunity to get on the radar of others and build your social tribe with thought leaders. Don’t leave “social currency on the table” and invest in others’ content.
Not Responding To DM’s, RT’s and Mentions. You were taught to say thank you and respond to people who reach out to you. It’s good manners and good brand building respond to direct messages and to thank others when they RT or mention you.