Twitter for non-profits. What fun!
I have recently been using Twitter to get the word out and connect with people on this Facebook-lite type of system. Many of my compatriots in the non-profit world have yet to take advantage of what Twitter has to offer and many in fact may not even know what Twitter is. So here’s an intro to Twitter.
Twitter is one of the latest, and hottest, social networking tools since Facebook. If you haven’t used Facebook, or don’t know what Facebook is all about, you are falling behind the times my friend (of course maybe you’re a Friendster.com fan). To check out some of these sites look at the link list in the right column on Intuitech.biz.
Anyway, Twitter is a free online service for the exchange of micro messages between friends or at least between people who like to see what each can say in 140 characters. These mini messages are called Tweets and are text-based posts. You have your own home page where you get to see all the people you are following as they write their tweets. There are no applications, photos and videos and who has a crush on me type distractions in Twitter, it’s all pretty much text based simplicity; however you can post hyperlinks to your blog or web site or to others to share valuable and interesting information. The more interesting stuff you have to share the more “followers” you will have. Some Twitter folks have 10s of thousands of followers.
There are a variety of applications that can help you with your tweeting, i.e, making it even simpler including Tweetie, Twitterrific, Twitterfon (which I use with my iPhone) and Feedalizr. You can block followers if you don’t like them and restrict your feeds and have feeds automatically post to your Twitter account when you write a post in your blog. The whole idea is about drastically expanding your network. And this is useful for Non-profits. For non-profits or social purpose organizations, you generally are trying to get a message out about whatever cause you are working on…Twitter is a great way to do it not only because you may have a 100 people following you, but they can pass your cause related post onto their thousands of friends and then their friends and so on… you get the message.
However, it’s not necessarily the best tool for all non-profits most especially if you are a local based non-profit working on some local issues. Twitter is a global tool and is more responsive to large scale issues..a least that’s what I’ve noticed so far as I’ve tweeted my way around. How you define large scale issues is up to you, but a charity working to assist handicapped children trying to raise money for some modified kayaks might find a response in Twitter, it’s often hard to tell.
Here’s a bit about the American cancer Society’s use of Twitter: “Frozen Pea Friday is a demonstration of how Twitter can be used by nonprofits. People on Twitter change their avatar each Friday to be something about peas (“peavatars”) to draw attention to the Frozen Pea Fund, a fundraiser for breast cancer research inspired by the cancer experience of Susan Reynolds.”
Here’s another use (an article by Darcy De Leon in CancerWise) that could inspire you own non-profit client group for some peer to peer networking: Cancer patients are using Twiter to connect on line to suport each other.
Timothy Ferriss author of “The 4 Hour Work Week” presently has a Twitter campaign underway to help rasie money for the US public school system…”The gist: To benefit U.S. public school students, I will bribe the entire world to follow me on Twitter for $3 each.”
So some of the good things about Twitter are it’s:
- Speed. You can post and get your message out to many people almost instantly, right from the scene of the action. This is great for protest groups and lobbying groups and political/environmental organizations.
- Speed. Is also good for emergencies and communicating status widely.
- Massive volunteer coordination medium (I.e, elections, and fund raising mobilization campaigns)
- It’s a simple community publishing medium that is very easy to use.
- Major news organizations are displaying tweets on thier networks during various events.
- It integrates with other technologies like RSS and websites and blogs etc. so you can combine in nicely into your whole web prescence.
- It is free
- It is popular
- It can be fun and convenient
- You have to use it and that takes a bit of time.
- You can get a lot of messages that are irrelevant and a little work in monitoring who you follow is important.
How big is Twitter? Well according to Wikipedia: “Estimates of the number of daily users vary as the company does not release the number of active accounts. In November 2008, Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research estimated that Twitter had 4-5 million users. A February 2009 Compete.com blog entry ranks Twitter as the third largest social network (MySpace would be second and Facebook would be the largest in the world), and puts the number of users at roughly 6 million and the number of monthly visitors at 55 million.“
So go and investigate Twitter and think about your donors, board, staff, supporters and clients and whether or not having the ability to connect on issues quickly is important or who knows maybe your blog or simply your website is enough.
You can follow me on twitter at christopherholt
Have fun and be kind out there.
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