The reasons why your charity should be active on Twitter and how you can make it happen.


There’s no point in denying that the internet now plays a large part in all of our lives and a lot of this internet usage is done using mobile devices. These devices are not just simple cell phones of yesteryear. They are now small, pocket-sized computers that can do a variety of things like send emails, display videos, play high graphic video games, take photos, browse the internet, and connect you with your social networks. Now that people spend so much time glued to their smartphones, charities need to reconsider how they are planning to reach people.
Your charity needs to connect, communicate, and engage with mobile users. One of the best ways is through the popular social networking platform, Twitter. This platform will be a public and audience facing part of your marketing, communications, and PR strategies. Twitter has approximately 165 million users and about 50% of them use the Twitter Mobile app. Also, Twitter users send over 100,000 tweets every minute of the day. Your charity needs to step up to the soapbox and add its voice to the conversation.
The Facts
In our post, Insights into Canadians at the Google Engage for Agencies One-Year Canadian Launch Celebrations, Canada only has a population of approximately 33 million people, but 27.4 million of these people have access to the internet and are online. Some 16.9 million of them are on social networks. Canadians spend 17.2 hours per week using the internet on average while making 4.8 billion online searches per month. These are some heavy internet usage numbers for a population the size of Canada’s.
Add to this the fact that in Mobile: The Next Frontier, we reported that in 2011 the world had approximately 4 billion mobile phones in use, some 1.08 billion of these mobile phones were smartphones, and a projection was made that mobile internet usage would outstrip desktop internet usage by 2014. In early 2012, we reported in The State of Mobile Internet Usage, that 17% of U.S. adult cell phone users do almost all of their internet browsing on their mobile device and 46% of American adults own a smartphone. Lastly, our post, Mobile Socialization, reported that 91% of Americans use their mobile internet for social networking.
People are on their mobile devices conversing and socializing. Where are you?
Tweet, tweet, tweet.
These days everyone from your friendly neighbourhood teenager to Pope Benedict XVI has a Twitter account. Why you may ask?
1. It’s an easy way to access and converse with an interested audience who have chosen to follow your account and listen to your messages.
2. Tweets are a short and concise form of communication for people’s thoughts, opinions, promotions, and information.
3. It isn’t time or resource consuming at all. It’s only 140 characters!!
4. Twitter accounts can find and connect with those who share common interests and other key online influencers quickly.
The Guide
1. Username
Many people don’t put a lot of thought into the username when signing up for things. However, Twitter is a very public representative of your charity on the web and you should put some thought into it. Luckily, Twitter gives you the option of going in and changing the username if you have a change of heart or made an error.
Try to generate and select a username that is easily identifiable with your charitable organization. Formally registered names filed with government agencies are usually too long. Use the familiar, colloquial name that people use everyday for your group or the acronym you go by. Try to include the geographical area you operate in whether it be national, regional, or local.
Here are some examples of some great charity Twitter usernames:
Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders Canada – @MSF_Canada
Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research – @CANFAR
Ontario Association of Food Banks – @OAFB
Cystic Fibrosis Toronto – @CF_Toronto
The Redwood…For Women and Children Fleeing Abuse – @TheRedwoodTO
2. The Twitter Teacher
Twitter has implemented an account setup process called The Twitter Teacher. It is the first screen you see after filling in the Twitter sign-up and selecting a username. It shows you what a tweet looks like, explains the 140 character rule for tweets, and mentions that tweets can contain links. It claims it will get you all setup on Twitter in less than 60 seconds.
It will walk you through three ways to discover and follow new Twitter accounts. These three methods are Who to Follow, Browse Categories, and Find Friends. You have to select and follow five accounts from each of the three methods before being able to move on in the process. The alternative and the best idea in my opinion is to use the search box and find Twitter accounts that are more relevant to your charity and the work that you do. Even after The Twitter Teacher process is completed you will always have access to the three methods of discovering new accounts on your Home News feed or by clicking on the Discover tab. You can’t go wrong by following accounts in the nonprofit sector and accounts like us @ConnectAd who can help your charity.
The photos below show you the steps that The Twitter Teacher takes you through.

3. Display Picture and Bio
This is another mundane step that many people forget to do or do not put much effort into. Guy Kawasaki, the successful tech venture capitalist, once mentioned in jest during a webinar that display pictures and profile descriptions are important because social networking sometimes is like “hot-or-not” online speed dating. You need to be able to make a great first impression and capture people’s attention immediately.
Select an image for the display picture that relays the compelling story behind your organization’s mission and cause. It should show the social good that you are doing for the community at large. Grab people’s attention with the image and get people to click on your account to find out more. On the other hand, the bio is only 160 characters long so you get to practice writing concise messages right off the bat. It should say explicitly what your charity’s core mission is. Describe the work that you do and the communities you serve. Disclaimer: Do not leave the bio blank! A good bio builds a lot of credibility with other Twitter users.
4. Tweets
After all that setup work, you’re now wondering what should you start saying on Twitter. It can be as simple as considering tweeting anything that is relevant to the public about the work that you do. Anything at all that you believe they should know about. This could be press releases, a fundraising event that is happening, publishing a new study or research, calling for volunteers, getting people to subscribe to a e-newsletter and etc. All this can be expressed in 140 characters to the masses who are glued to their smartphones and electronic devices. Whoever is in charge of the account should be comfortable with tweeting at least three times per day, but that should be easy enough. There is always plenty going on at a charity that can be shared with the public. Time and resources shouldn’t be a concern either. We believe that even Executive Directors can manage a charity’s Twitter account amidst their busy schedules.
One of the best ways to find topics to converse with other people about on Twitter is to use the search box to search up keywords related to your charity and its cause. You never know who might be talking about it on Twitter. This way you can reply to people’s tweets with answers to their concerns, suggestions, and general information. This is a great way to engage your audience.
Remember to use hashtag symbols (#) before any text that you want to use as a marker for grouping particular tweets together. This way you and others can search for these grouped tweets later on. The picture below shows my search for #nptech. Now all the relevant tweets that used that hashtag at the end of their tweets have appeared in my search results. This is particularly useful, for example, in call to action tweets to attend a charity event or to promote a fundraising campaign. You can use the name of the event or campaign as the hashtag.

5. Re-tweeting
Other Twitter users are tweeting some great stuff too. If you think so, then just press the re-tweet button in the interface to re-send and share the person’s tweet on your feed and with your followers. Sometimes you may want to edit the re-tweet. This is usually done by putting “RT” before the person’s Twitter username and then their tweet. Editing is sometimes needed to ensure the re-tweet is within 140 characters. An example of a “RT” retweet can be seen in the first search result in the above photo.
A great addition to your charity’s website are share buttons all over the site. These re-tweet buttons allow people to re-tweet particular articles, blog posts, and announcements on your website to their Twitter feeds so that it can be shared with their followers. You can also put in Facebook Like buttons, Google+ +1 buttons, Pinterest repin buttons, and more. These all help internet users better engage with your charity’s information and drive that information to others.
6. Tools, Apps, and Platforms
There are a large variety of tools, apps, and platforms that can sync with your Twitter account. Here are quick descriptions of the ones I use on a regular basis and find integral for effective Twitter usage.
–  Twitter Mobile: A mobile app for your smartphone so that you can have the Twitter interface right there at your fingertips to tweet on the go.
– HootSuite: An online dashboard where you can manage multiple Twitter accounts, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can pre-write tweets and set them to be sent out at specific times. This is a very useful feature if you are too busy to real-time tweet. There are some analytics and measurement features as well. Download the mobile app to manage your Twitter accounts and tweets on the go.
TwitterFeed: If your charity has a blog, then this is a really useful website. Using your blog’s RSS feed, TwitterFeed can be set to tweet or post to Facebook your most recent blog posts automatically. A great way to promote your blog posts using Twitter.
– Facebook: You can sync your Twitter and Facebook accounts so that whenever you tweet it will be posted to your charity’s Facebook Page. This is like getting two birds with one  stone. It is like managing Facebook’s written features via Twitter. You will still have to go onto Facebook to post photos and videos though.
– LinkedIn: You can also sync your Twitter with your charity’s LinkedIn page. This has similar benefits to those mentioned above. Three birds with one stone!
– Instagram: Photographs taken at charitable events can now be shared via Twitter with the simple click of a button. Now your Twitter will also have visual content.
I hope all this information has been beneficial and that in the end your charity has learned to love Twitter for all the right reasons.


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