How Nonprofit Pros Use Twitter

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According to the most recent Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, 76% percent of nonprofits are now using Twitter. It’s the second most popular social network used by nonprofits, after Facebook.

Twitter can be used to distribute news about your organization and your stories. And you can use a variety of apps to automatically tweet that news (Hootsuite and Buffer are tops)!

But the real power of Twitter is using it to engage influencers.

I’m not talking about Lady Gaga. I’m talking about engaging journalists, sponsors, and community leaders who are passionate about your cause. When you network with the right influencers, you gain access to their followers by way of retweets.

But what is the best way to use Twitter, without wasting valuable time? I reached out to a few pros, and here’s what they offered for nonprofit Twitter tips:

25 Nonprofit Twitter Tips From The Pros

  1. Try to include an image in your tweets. Twitter is like looking out the window of a fast moving train. If you insert insert a “billboard” (photo or graphic image) tweet, people will notice it.-  Noland Hoshino
  2. Always, always check your links!–  Jenn Johnson
  3. For every self serving post you tweet…engage with one of your constituents.Michael Dougherty
  4. Don’t let your tweets devolve to mere “press releases.” Experiment with your nonprofit’s voice so that you can be interesting to those who choose to follow you.-  Marc A. Pitman
  5. Write specific thank you messages to your supporters along with their twitter handles during online fundraising efforts. More likely than not they’ll retweet you and expand your campaign’s reach.-  Mark Hallman
  6. Schedule 15 mins in the morning, afternoon and evening to spend time on Twitter actively engaging with others content, not just promoting our own. Be visual; use properly sized images to grab attention and experiment with 30 second videos, such as interviews with staff, donors and volunteers — or a trailer for a longer video linking to your website. And create Twitter Lists to more easily manage organizational partners, staff Twitter accounts, influencers, press and others related to your work to make it easier to cut through the noise and focus on those you most want to engage with. –  Chris Tuttle
  7. Spend 15-30 minutes, twice a day (with a timer; gets you focused). Segment, balance out your tweets, respond to everyone. Finally, empower your supporters to engage on Twitter on your behalf by including pre-written tweets in your emails. – Pamela Grow
  8. I love Twitter for media relations. Follow all the reporters and producers as individuals, in addition to the official accounts, for your target media, put them in a list and check it frequently to see if they are working on stories related to your work. Pass on good news tips to them too, not just from your org, but from your field in general. Kivi Leroux Miller
  9. Master hashtags. Tweets with hashtags usually get more engagement. Use tools such as Twitonomy, Ritetag and to research relevant tags for your audience and combine them in smart ways. Monitor your key hashtags to help you find new people and engage in relevant conversations. And hashtags aren’t just for Twitter – think event signage, emails, advertisements. – Kerri Karvetski 
  10. Always, always research hashtags before you use them – something that may seem benign may be used by people with whom you shouldn’t associate your brand. –Nora Brathol
  11. Really think through hashtags you create for a campaign – how might it be coopted? And will that be ok? – Gurukarm Kaur Khalsa
  12. Segment those you follow into lists. Put those you follow you care most about interacting with, keeping up with, and cultivating into lists so that you can focus on those relationships and their news. Import those lists into your Twitter app (Tweetdeck, Hootsuite), and judiciously cultivate and interact with your list using the app. It makes Twitter manageable, fun, and easy to use! Debra Askanase
  13. Segment prospects into columns so you can stalk them! Joe Waters
  14. When tweeting your content, experiment with sharing it more than once, each time with a different approach. Variations include: share just the headline, write a tweet in an alternate engaging format (e.g. ask a question, quote a juicy bit), add an image, try a new hashtag, share at a different time of day or on the weekend, or add ICYMI (in case you missed it). – Lauren Girardin
  15. Don’t be so quick to jump onto trends and memes — they usually *aren’t* the right way to engage your community. If you would roll your eyes at your meme tweet if it came from another org, don’t post it. – Jenna Sauber
  16. Welcome your new Twitter followers and thank people for tweeting and really respond to people. – Beth Kanter
  17. Craft a balanced mix of tweets totally from you, about other’s content with your spin and links to others’ content. And don’t be afraid to throw in an occasional wildcard when you feel like it — good to have a personality even if EVERYONE doesn’t like it. Some always will! – Nancy E. Schwartz
  18. Find and participate in Twitter Chats in your segment or related segments. It is a great way for you to connect with people that might have an interest in what you do. And related to that, use a personal touch, let people know who they are talking with from the organization’s account. – Kami Watson Huyse
  19. Respond to everyone – EVERYONE. In a timely manner. For us it’s 24 hours. Set up monitoring for those that tweet their donation and thank every person. Don’t just respond to people who tag you – monitor convos about your brand throughout the twitter sphere. For example, many people call us the “American Humane Society”. So we monitor that phrase and engage accordingly. – Carie Lewis Carlson
  20. Find your audience by looking through your followers’ lists including those they put you on. Follow the breadcrumbs. Oh and take part in Twitter chats. – Maddie Grant
  21. Make your tweets short enough so RTs can add a comment to make it more meaningful to their Followers. Short and sweet is the key! – David Krumlauf
  22. Optimize your bio with keywords and use a scheduling tool like Hootsuite to pre-schedule content so you can focus on real-time engagement. – Melanie Mathos
  23. Learn about your followers, what they like and do so you can create content that is relevant to them. – Janet Fouts
  24. Look at your new followers a few times a day. Often very influential people will follow, but rarely to they say “hello” when they do. – Mark Horvath
  25. Don’t waste time engaging with users who don’t have strong networks. Use Klout score to prioritize influencers. Use the Klout filter in Hootsuite, and the Klout browser extension which displays Klout scores when using – John Haydon

What tips do you have?

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