Nonprofits who have made an investment in Twitter are likely to see increased brand awareness and website traffic. It’s an ideal platform for charities to interact directly with their constituents, in ways never before possible, especially for smaller organizations. As with all social networks, there are as many unique recipes for success as there are potential missteps. Follow these guidelines to ensure your nonprofit avoids any Twitter faux pas:
1) Broadcasting Instead of Engaging
A good rule of thumb for all social media channels is the rule of thirds: 1/3 your content, 1/3 other people’s content, 1/3 conversion. With Twitter, you might want to do more than 33% conversing. A majority of your feed should contain @replies directly to other users. Twitter is about engagement!
2) Syndicating to/from Other Social Networks
Are you pushing Facebook updates directly into your Twitter feed, or vice versa? Why? Your Twitter followers are likely a different kind of community than your Facebook fans, so give them different content! Tailor your content and messaging to each unique audience for better results.
3) Not Following Back
Do you have a lot of followers, but aren’t following many of them back? You don’t want to appear disengaged or too elite to follow anyone back, especially if some of those people are ardent supporters. Twitter users get excited when a brand follows them. It makes them feel good, especially if it’s a brand they like. Besides, following other users will let you see their tweets, opening up possiblities for conversation.
4) Talking Too Much About Yourself
It’s a common pitfall to use Twitter to simply broadcast information about your nonprofit, your events, your need for donations, etc. Just like all of your other content marketing efforts, you should attempt to be a resource for your followers. They are following you because they’re interested in your mission, yes, but also the cause it supports. What information can you share about that cause that would be valuable to them? Seek out news articles, studies, new findings and other fresh information, and share it with your followers.
5) Not Investing in Graphic Design
How you look on Twitter is almost as important as what you say. Make sure that your profile page adheres to your brand standards and is aesthetically pleasing. Pay particular attention to your profile picture (avatar), background image and cover image. Font colors are also completely customizable through profile settings – make sure they blend well with the other graphic design elements on your profile.
6) Not Indentifying Where Tweets Are Coming From
If you have a dedicated social media manager or a team of employees who manage your Twitter account, be sure to identify them somewhere within your profile or background image. For brand accounts, it’s nice for users to know who the tweets are coming from. It will help humanize your account in general.
7) Neglecting Hashtags
Hashtags are a great way to follow trending topics on Twitter. They can also be used by organizations to track their own activities. Nonprofits who put on a lot of events might consider creating a unique hashtag so that attendee tweets can be tracked, responded to and retweeted easily. Individual fundraising campaigns are also great opportunities for a unique hashtag.
8) Worrying Too Much About Followers
We see many nonprofits tweet things like “We’re almost to ‘x number’ of followers – can you help us get there?” What is the significance of that goal? You already have followers who want relevant information from you, not pleads for more followers. Once your account becomes a resource, and not a promotional platform, you following will begin to grow exponentially. It’s better to have 500 loyal followers than 5,000 disengaged followers.
9) Ignoring Contests/Giveaways
Contests and giveaways are a cheap and easy way to gain new followers and generate engagement. Nonprofits might consider procuring a giveaway item from an underwriter, then giving it away to a random user who follows you and retweets a post. Contests of this nature work well in advance of an event or campaign.
10) Tweeting at the Wrong Times of Day
Have you set an arbitrary schedule for when you tweet? Maybe you’re just tweeting as soon as you have something to share. You might not be taking advantage of the peak usage times of your followers. Use a tool like Followerwonk to identify the best times of day to tweet.
11) Not Tracking Results
If you aren’t sure if your efforts on Twitter are paying off, you might not be tracking results effectively. Follower growth, awareness and engagement data are important to look at, but nonprofits should be more concerned with how Twitter is improving donor and volunteer acquisition and retention. Are users visiting your website from Twitter, and making a donation or signing up to attend an event? Use Google Analytics to measure traffic from Twitter to your website or other donation forms, and try to replicate the kinds of tweets that get results. Download our Social Media Performance Scorecard to self-report your social media metrics.
All in all, Twitter is a great place for nonprofits to spend their marketing time and energy, but only if you take a data-driven and diligent approach. Don’t be afraid to try something new, or stop doing something that isn’t working.
Steven Shattuck served as the chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang for 10 years. A prolific writer and speaker, Steven contributed to “Fundraising Principles and Practice: Second Edition.” He also supports the Association of Fundraising Professional's Fundraising Effectiveness Project, serves as an AFP Center for Fundraising Innovation (CFI) committee member, and sits on the faculty of the Institute for Charitable Giving. He is the author of Robots Make Bad Fundraisers - How Nonprofits Can Maintain the Heart in the Digital Age, published by Bold and Bright Media (2020).
You can find Steven Shattuck on LinkedIn