“Twitter is the world’s water cooler.”
Recently, I was treated to a Twitter 101 presentation that included that and other bon mots from the social media team at Digital Evolution Group (@digitalev / digitalev.com) today. The presentation was led by my coworkers Pat Padley (@ppadley / patrickpadley.com) and Ramsey Mohsen (@rm / ramseymohsen.com). I was able to see what beginners need to know about Twitter – and it spurred me to write this post. A few things I’ll cover: The Language of Twitter, How to Tweet and What to Tweet.
First, if you’re going to begin tweeting (as it’s called when post a message on Twitter) you have to know some of the lingo…like “tweeting”. So, here’s a quick list of terms users should familiarize themselves with:
- Tweet: any 140-character message posted to Twitter.
- Tweeting: the act of posting on Twitter.
- Twitter Handle: the name by which you can be found on twitter. For instance, I’ve already included @digitalev, @ppadley and @rm in this post – those are their handles. Mine is @tababcock in case you want to find/follow me.
- Follow: when you’re interested in what someone else has to tweet, you follow them. Then their messages will be shown to you without you having to search for them.
- Timeline: all the tweets from those you follow.
- Lists: you have the ability to create lists to segment those you’re following. When you only have handful, you might not need lists. When you get up over 100, you might need lists. When you get over 250, you definitely need them (and it’s about time I started using them myself as I close in on 250…)
- Retweet:sharing a tweet someone else originally wrote. Typically, retweets are preceded by an RT at the beginning and include the original user’s handle. From the Twitter system, you can only retweet exactly what the original user posted. In other applications (see below) you can modify a retweet, making it shorter, adding your own thoughts or removing pieces you don’t want to use.
- @Mentions:including someone else’s handle in your tweet. Including the @ symbol before their name let’s them know you’re talking about them, such as “Thanks for the info, @tababcock!”
- @Replies: Replying to someone else’s tweet or including their handle at the very beginning of a tweet. Limits who can see the tweet in their timeline.
- Direct Message (or DM): think of this as “Twitter’s Inbox” – a way for you to quickly, and privately, message someone who follows you (important distinction) in the Twitter format. Be careful about replying as you don’t want to accidentally share private info in a public reply!
- Hashtags: references to topics associated with a tweet to help group them with other like-themed tweets. Assists searchers in finding tweets they might not otherwise see.
- More terms and longer descriptions can be found in Twitter’s Help Center (@Support).
How to Tweet
The easiest way to get tweeting is to use the Twitter platform. It’s available online at http://Twitter.com, as an iPhone or Android app or even by texting from your phone (more on SMS-based tweeting here).
There are also several (and by several, I mean TONS) of applications and software you can get to help you tweet. Some of the more popular ones are:
- TweetDeck (my app of preference)
When selecting a third-party app, check for what properties are most important to you. Characteristics you might look for:
- Tweet scheduling
- Post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Google+ with a single entry
- Alter views, such as adding columns or combining platforms into one location
- Automatic link shortening
- Easily add photos
- Easily add locations
- Ability to lookup names for @mentions & @replies
- Retweets can be edited before posting
- Multi-platform options (desktop, web, app)
Herein lies the biggest conundrum for many NPOs and, specifically, their events: WHAT DO WE SAY? You’re onboard with using Twitter, you’ve got your account, you get the lingo but now….tweeter’s block. It can be a bit daunting, especially if you’ve started without a strategy in place. Never fear, here’s a few ideas to help you until you get things a little more ironed out:
- Talk about your event. The date, the entertainment, the date, the food, the location, where to buy tickets…you get the idea. But…
- Avoid being all about yourself. If you’re only selling your organization or your event, you’ll lose more followers than you gain.
- Put out volunteer, sponsor, and donation requests and other “call to actions”
- Retweet tweets from other organizations that involve the same cause or relevant research.
- Retweet relevant tweets from your followers.
- During off-event time, discuss how the funds are being put to use.
- Retweet your organization’s tweets (if you have a separate account for your event).
- Create a hashtag specifically for your event each year that isn’t being used elsewhere. Use it for every tweet about the event. When sending out emails or other calls to action, ask your followers to use the same hashtag in their tweets.