How to Use Twitter to Connect With Other Nonprofit Professionals

Twitter Is a Beehive of Nonprofit Acivitiy

Professional woman using Twitter on her smartphone.
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 Nonprofit organizations, consultants, fundraisers, and marketers are all over Twitter.

The nonprofit sector is very busy on Twitter, not only for its potential for friend building, fundraising, and marketing but also because it's a great place to exchange information and learn from other nonprofit experts. 

I use Twitter professionally for these reasons:

  • It helps drive traffic to my website
  • It provides me with many professional contacts
  • It gives me information quickly about what is going on in the nonprofit world
  • It teaches me new ideas, concepts, and skills
  • It alerts me to hot topics
  • It allows me to share my own enthusiasms such as causes I want to support, the great content I want others to know about, and news I think people should care about.

Twitter wasn't the easiest social networking platform for me. And it might not be for you. But I found that persistence paid off. Here are my tips that come right out of my experience. 

  • Stick with it.
    I tried it. Got confused. Left it. Came back. Read all the guides I could find. Eventually settled on using it frequently. May now be addicted.
  • Be professional.
    Don't have a silly name. Now sometimes a stupid name pays off, but it works in just a few cases. For instance, The Whiney Donor has a good following and is entertaining. But, if you're just starting out, I suggest professionally boring would be the best strategy.
    Put up a decent photo of yourself (not your cat) or use your organization's logo. Set up your profile so people can understand who you are and decide if they want to follow you. Make it clear if you are tweeting for yourself and not your organization. You may be doing both with your personal account and an organizational account. 
  • Follow lots of other people first.
    Don't worry; your own followers will come. Search for names you already know. Search for hashtags such as #nonprofit #philanthropy #fundraising for tweets on those topics. Follow the people and organizations that posted them. Whenever you find a blog or site you like, look for a Twitter button. Follow the people your favorite tweeter is following, and then follow those who are following them, etc.
  • Tweet mostly on professional themes. 
    But do reveal your personality as well with a few more personal tweets. Share your experience with a new software tool, how you liked a movie, what book you are reading, or ask advice about something.
  • Retweet a lot.
    Sharing and promoting others is what it is all about. It is not all about you. People who only promote themselves are b-o-r-i-n-g. Participate in the marketplace of ideas, and not just your thoughts. Watch how other people retweet for the best ways to format your RTs. 
  • Do not tweet a whole bunch of times all at once.
    Tweet frequently, but don't act like a spammer. Don't tweet just to be tweeting. Make sure you have something of value to tweet and space your tweets out. Some of the Twitter tools and interfaces can help you schedule your tweets ahead. I use Hootsuite, which has a great dashboard, scheduling tool, and the ability to share to various social media platforms. I also use Buffer, a program that lets you schedule updates for several social media platforms, including Twitter, FB, and LinkedIn.
  • Practice generosity.  
    Do promote your stuff, but make sure that it is only a moderate percentage of what you are tweeting. I try to have a 1:4 ratio. I tweet my stuff once to every four times I share things from other people. Watch to see if your updates are retweeted. No? Maybe you should find other topics. Yes? Do more on that subject. Twitter is a great place to determine if you are relevant or not. The other reason to share content from other people and organizations, besides just being a good person, is that sharing begets sharing. People watch who retweets them and often follow them and then RT their content. It's a generosity cycle.
  • Thank people who retweet you.
    You can use Twitter DMs (direct messages) to do so, but public thank yous to several people at once work well. Besides, if you want your thank you to be private, just put that person's handle at the beginning of your tweet. They will be the only person who sees it. Example: "@PamelaGrow Thanks so much for the RT, Pamela."  There are applications that you can use for thanking people, such as Commun.it. That tool helps track who's RTing you and following you. There are several auto answer options, and you can use the free version of the software until you figure out if it would be useful.
  • Use #hashtags.
    These are ubiquitous now across all social networks, but they started on Twitter. They are useful for finding the right group of readers for your content, and for finding the people and issues that you want to follow. Here is a list of common hashtags used by people in nonprofit and a primer about hashtags. Don't overuse them though or your tweets will become unreadable.
  • Don't auto-follow and DM people who follow you, unless...
    Most experts say that setting up an auto-follow with a DM (where you automatically follow anyone who follows you and send a welcome message) is bad form since it looks spammy. One social media guru, though, does it in a particular way. John Haydon auto-follows and provides some names of other Tweeters to follow in his DM. That is a nice touch and takes it out of the realm of spam.
  • Join a TweetChat.
    There are several excellent ones that cater to nonprofit pros. TweetChats look like chaos at first. It's a fast moving chat in real time. They have hosts who promote the chats, organize them and moderate the conversations. Again, persistence pays off. After the temporary confusion, a chat might be very useful to learn new ideas and make contact with other pros in your field. You can also start one of your own, using these tips.
  • Always help newbies.
    Once you've learned the Twitter ropes, be kind to other newcomers. Follow them, retweet them, thank them.

My handle on Twitter is @joannefritz, and you can see my Twitter profile here.

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