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Twitter Tips for Nonprofit Tweeple ... People

Social Networking for Nonprofit Professionals


Twitter Tips for Nonprofit Tweeple ... People
Marisa Allegra Williams (@marisa) for Twitter, Inc./Fllickr/Editorial

Nonprofit organizations, consultants, fundraisers, and marketers are all over Twitter.

At first Twitter was a way to personally keep in touch with friends and family. But it has long since been adopted by professionals of all kinds, as well as nonprofit organizations and businesses. The nonprofit sector is very busy on Twitter, not only for its potential for friend building, fundraising, and marketing, but also because it's a great place to exchange information and learn from other nonprofit experts.

I use Twitter professionally for these reasons:

  • It helps drive traffic to my website
  • It provides me with many professional contacts
  • It gives me information quickly about what is going on in the nonprofit world
  • It teaches me new ideas, concepts, and skills
  • It alerts me to hot topics
  • It allows me to share my own enthusiasms such as causes I want to support, great content I want others to know about, and news I think people should care about.

I've been on Twitter for a while now so I feel able to pass on some tips: 

  • Stick with it. I tried it. Got confused. Left it. Came back. Read all the guides I could find. Eventually settled in to using it frequently. May now be addicted.
  • Be professional. Don't have a silly name. Put up a decent photo of yourself or use your organization's logo. Set up your profile so people can understand who you are and decide if they want to follow you. Make clear if you are tweeting for yourself and not your organization. You may be doing both with your personal account and an organizational account.
  • Follow lots of other people first. Don't worry, your own followers will come. Search for names you already know. Search on hashtags such as #nonprofit #philanthropy #fundraising for tweets on those topics. Follow the people and orgs that posted them. Whenever you find a blog or site you like, look for a Twitter button. Follow the people your favorite tweeter is following, and then follow those who are following them, etc.
  • Tweet mostly on professional themes, but do reveal your own personality as well with a few more personal tweets. Share your experience with a new software tool, how you liked a movie, what book you are reading, or ask advice about something.
  • Retweet a lot. Sharing and promoting others is what it is all about. It is not all about you. People who only promote themselves are b-o-r-i-n-g. Participate in the marketplace of ideas, and not just your ideas. Watch how other people retweet for the best ways to format your RTs. 
  • Do not tweet a whole bunch of times all at once. Tweet frequently, but don't act like a spammer. Don't tweet just to be tweeting. Make sure you have something of value to tweet about and space your tweets out. Some of the Twitter tools and interfaces can help you schedule your tweets ahead. I use Hootsuite, which has a great dashboard, scheduling tool, and the ability to share to various social media platforms. I also use Buffer, a program that lets you schedule updates for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Practice generosity.  Do promote your own stuff, but make sure that it is only a moderate percentage of what you are tweeting. i try to have a 1:4 ratio. I tweet my own stuff once to every four times I share things from other people. Watch to see if your updates are retweeted. No? Maybe you should find other topics. Yes? Do more on that topic. Twitter is a great place to determine if you are relevant or not.
  • Thank people who retweet you. You can use Twitter DMs (direct messages) to do so, but public thank yous to several people at once work well. Probably the most effective thank you is a public tweet that uses a person's first name. Example: "@PamelaGrow Thanks so much for the RT, Pamela." Those are time consuming, but the point is that you should mix it up when thanking people.
  • Use #hashtags. These are ubiquitous now across all social networks, but they started on Twitter. They are useful for finding the right group of readers for your content, and for finding the people and issues that you want to follow. Here is a list of common hashtags used by people in nonprofit. Don't overuse them though or your tweets will become unreadable.
  • Don't auto-follow and DM people who follow you, unless... Most experts say that setting up an auto-follow with a DM (where you automatically follow anyone who follows you and send a welcome message) is bad form since it looks spammy. One social media guru, though, does it in a special way. John Haydon, auto follows and provides some names of other Tweeters to follow in his DM. That is a nice touch and takes it out of the realm of spam.
  • Join a TweetChat. There are several very good ones that cater to nonprofit pros. Here is one list. You can also start one of your own, using these tips.
  • Always help newbies. Follow them, retweet them, thank them.

My handle on Twitter is @joannefritz, and you can see my Twitter profile here.


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