Twitter: Where Should We Start?

Twitter: Where Should We Start?

Is your charity considering (finally) embarking on Twitter? We know that some nonprofit organizations have no knowledge of Twitter so we thought it would be helpful to provide some introductory tips and knowledge.

These questions are basic starting points for individuals who only have simple knowledge of Twitter. If you’re already familiar with Twitter we encourage you to view our Twitter cheat sheet in our Resources section.

What is a #hashtag and how do I use it?

From the Twitter Help Center, “The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.”

People often use a hashtag symbol for keywords that they want individuals to search for. When you click on a hashtag you’ll see all other Tweets marked with that keyword.

We discuss this in our cheat sheet for Twitter, but too many hashtags can hurt the flow of a tweet. Marketers like hashtags because people searching for hashtags can find your organization or theme. Too many hashtags make your message hard to read and reduces the effectiveness of your message. Think of hashtags like exclamation points. Use them conservatively and effectively. A best practice is to use them to track tweets at an event or conference.

Below is a sample Tweet from Justin’s timeline. The San Francisco Opera was using #rigosf as a hashtag at their Opera at the Ballpark event and showing tweets on the Jumbotron.

Excited to attend the @sfopera presentation of #rigosf at AT&T park. The ballpark is packed!

What does #FF mean?

#FF stands for Follow Friday. This is an older tradition in Twitter, in which users will suggest people/companies/nonprofit organizations that they think their followers should also follow. These tweets are almost always made on a Friday. If someone suggests that their followers #FF for your organization it’s a nice practice to reply to them and thank them. Below are a few sample tweets:

Simple reply: @SCC_Niki – Thank you for the #FF! We appreciate your support. Have a nice weekend.
For multiple replies: Thank you to @SCC_Niki, @kellyhusted, and @mchae for the #FF shoutouts!

How do I communicate our mission in 140 characters?

The short answer is carefully. You can say a lot in 140 characters and you can drive constituents to pages with more content. Mix up your messages and encourage volunteers to visit your website (with a link) or share content from other organizations.

It’s important to remember to maintain your professional identity when using Twitter. If you have the available characters, use whole words; 4 instead of “for” and 2 instead of “to.” These abbreviations may be convenient for text messages but they lack the professionalism that you’re likely trying to maintain. Twitter reflects the personality of your organization – so try to be consistent, personal, and professional.

Additionally, sharing pictures and videos is a great way to provide your Twitter followers with greater depth about your mission.

We hope these quick tips help answer some basic questions. We encourage you to share other tips in the comments below.

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