Twitter – Now We're Listening!
Knowledge Center

Twitter - Now We're Listening!

I'm sure you've heard about Twitter. Ever since Oprah and Ashton Kutcher and CNN started tweeting, everybody is talking about the popular micro-blogging service. And then there was the Iranian election and aftermath that was "reported" through Twitter (and other social media) recently. And we've blogged about Twitter already in the past. Our first blog post was about the service in general, just as a bit of an overview. Our second post talked about micro-blogging more generally.

So, why another post about the seemingly ubiquitous service? Because enough individuals and nonprofits are using the service now, making it a legitimate communications channel. Sure, Oprah rarely uses the service. And Kutcher basically used it to gather followers, not to truly engage with fans. But now more and more people are joining the service. And more and more nonprofits (and for-profits) are finding it a great way to communicate with and engage their constituents. A number of participating Grinspoon Institute camps have already started to Tweet as well. You can find links to many of their accounts from the Grinspoon Institute Twitter account: @gijp.

What You Need to Know

Our Message Hasn't Changed: Don't use Twitter or any other technology without considering your overall communications and outreach strategy. Remember that the key to utilizing these social media tools is the quality of the interactions with your constituents, not necessarily the quantity of platforms on which you've slapped your logo. Make sure Twitter is helping you reach some specific goal. The goal could be reaching out to long-lost alumni. Or communicating camp updates to nervous parents. Or sharing information with other local organizations. If Twitter isn't helping you reach some specific goal, don't spend too much time on it. Find out where your constituents are and spend your time and energy on those platforms.

Some Basics for Getting Started: Here are two articles that will give you lots of great information:

1) For a primer on Twitter, the NYTimes recently ran a great overview article about Twitter and how to use it.

2) The Association for Fundraising Professionals website also posted a brief discussion of how nonprofits can take advantage of Twitter.

Sign up for and start tweeting! Some tips for getting started with your Twitter account:

  1. You can sign up as an individual or as your organization (or both). There are a number of tools that will allow you manage both an individual and organization account. They can also help multiple staff members tweet to a central organization Twitter account. Check out and for two of the more popular tools.
  2. Even if you have an organization account, be authentic! Engage with others: respond to their posts and forward interesting tweets (called retweeting). Make your interactions personal, just like with other social media.
  3. Follow others' tweets. When you follow someone else, you will see their tweets in your personalized Twitter homepage.
  4. Learn the lingo:
  • Follow/Unfollow - You can decide whose Tweets you will see in your own personalized Twitter homepage. You can also unfollow someone if you aren't interested in what they are tweeting anymore.
  • @ replies. When you put the @ sign in front of someone's Twitter name (i.e, @jcamp180), it means you are speaking directly to that person. However, the tweet is still public - your followers will see the Tweet in their homepage and anyone can search in Twitter or Google to find that Tweet. If someone mentions your user name in a tweet, the tweet will show up in a special @ replies section on the right side of your Twitter homepage.
  • DM - direct message. These are private messages sent to another Twitter account. These messages are not searchable or viewable by anyone but the recipient.
  • # Hashtags - allows you to "tag" or categorize a tweet for easy searching. For example, #iranelection. This is often used at a conference where all participants use the same hashtag while planning for and participating in the conference. For example, the popular South by Southwest conference used #SxSW.
  • Protect your Updates. You can actually set your profile on Twitter so that only those whom you choose can see your tweets. Note, however, that we recommend leaving these updates public to allow you to find and connect with more constituents.
  • Block. You can choose to block particular users on Twitter. This doesn't block them from reading your tweets like Proteting your Updates, however. Instead, it simply keeps them from being able to follow you. They can still search for your tweets and read them, but nobody will be able to see that they are Following you on your Twitter profile. The main reasons to block someone are if they are abusing Twitter in some way (i.e., spamming) or have an inappropriate profile picture.

If you would like to learn more, we will be having a special Webinar on July 21, 2009 at 1 PM EDT to demonstrate Twitter and discuss it in more detail. You can register online at

Are you using Twitter? Have any great tips for getting the most out of it? Anything we should avoid when using Twitter? Let us know in the comments below.