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How about Twitter?

Have you tweeted yet? I came across this article about Twitter and how nonprofits can use it to engage their constituents. Basically, Twitter allows you to send real-time messages of 140 characters or less to a set of people who decide to "follow" your updates ("tweets"). You can post and view your tweets from the web, from an application like twhirl that you download to your desktop, or even from a mobile phone.

I'm just beginning to consider how Twitter can be used effectively. You can find me at http://twitter.com/kmartone. As the article linked above says, Twitter asks "what are you doing now." So I post about what I am doing. For example, right now I might tweet, "posting on the blog about Twitter." I also set up twitter to post a link to this blog every time I post a new entry here. Sometimes I'll ask a question to those people following me to learn a bit more about a certain subject. For instance, I might ask, "what do you use twitter for?" The question automatically goes out to anyone who is "following" my tweets.

So far, I find the listening side of Twitter to be the most important. I have found a lot of great people on Twitter who talk about how to effectively use technology, specifically for nonprofits. Once you are on Twitter, you can find lots of people with specific interests by reviewing TwitterPacks. TwitterPacks are simply lists of people on Twitter who tweet most often about specific topics.

How can camps use Twitter? First, I'd say you should just create a Twitter ID and check it out. See if you have time/interest in posting updates. If not, you may not want to spend time on this particular channel - focus on Facebook or blogging or some other channel to reach out to alumni. You are better off focusing on only one or two tools than trying to maintain a presence everywhere online. Remember: it's the quality of your communities/interactions online, not the quantity.

If you DO enjoy posting your updates on Twitter, start asking your Alumni if they are on Twitter. Follow them. Listen to what they say. You may find out new things about what interests them, what makes them who they are. No matter what channel - Twitter, Facebook, blogs, the alumni section of your website, phone calls, etc. - listening is the key to learning what is important to each of your constituents.

URJ Henry S Jacobs Camp is using Twitter in another interesting way - microblogging. Their Camp Director and two Assistant Directors are actually posting their tweets directly onto their website so that non-twitterers can see what they are up to as well. They say they have had a very positive response to their efforts thus far.

Do you Twitter? Have you found it useful? Do you have any other ideas for using Twitter to build community?