The Nonprofit Twitter Guide - 25 Top Tips

Classic Non-sense Poet - Edward Lear

Even some of the more successful charities, NGOs and nonprofit groups have failed to adapt effectively to the new opportunities afforded by social media. Twitter has often been neglected as irrelevant and vain.

As a useful social media tool, Twitter has often lagged behind Facebook. I suspect that's because the first impression of Twitter is that it is chiefly populated by celebrity gossips and ephemeral personal details that have no relevance to the goals of social transformation and ethical awareness.

Having researched this topic I would like to offer 25 tips for nonprofits to make effective use of Twitter.

1. Tweets (comments posted on Twitter) need to be written with professional care and attention, just like any other form of writing. That means that Twitter will have an impact on your resources. But don't let it take over...

2. Avoid flippancy, rudeness, and excessive personalisation. By the same token, a dull corporate tone starts to sound quite tedious if it lacks any emotional intelligence.

3. Check Tweets for accuracy and errors. It's important to build a reputation for reliability.

4. It makes sense to follow sister and like-minded charities and nonprofits. That means being part of a community and collaborating by co-creating value.

5. Ration your tweets. Excessive tweeting may be compared to an irritating chatterbox at a party who refuses to let you speak or comment on what they've just said. At the outset I lost many followers by tweeting too enthusiastically.

6. Use words and phrases such as 'Please', 'Check out', 'Help me/us to' if you want people to re-tweet your comments. Polite requests are highly valued and respected.

7. In the most common re-tweets (RTs) Questions (?) were more popular than Exclamations (!)

8. Strong positive words are generally preferred to weak words and negative sentiments

9. Avoid emoticons. They are the sign of infantile desperation of the worst kind.

10. Popular RTs include some form of relevant news content

12. Research suggests that people are more likely to RT earlier in the working week (Monday-Wednesday) and during working hours (9-5 EST - USA)

13. A significant proportion of RTs contain a link to further information

14. Tweets are more likely to be re-tweeted as they pass through more hands (in a chain of trusted replication)

15. Tweets that are trusted and valued will have more viral impact for nonprofits, than ones that lack objectivity or are transparently propagandist.

16. Witty and humourous tweets can be effective but they may also backfire or alienate some followers.

17. Your tweet stream and your favourites should constitute a valued and trustworthy experience.

18. Do not endorse what you have not tried and tested yourself.

19. Engage your readers by offering free resources

20. Provide news items, alerts, and thematic or critical insights into current topics in the news

21. Support your readers with helpful resources and advice for common problems

22. Information that warns people about risks or dangers is valued and tends to be re-tweeted

23. Never spread rumours.

24. Build participatory engagement with requests to vote on topics or to take part in competitions

25. Ask readers to comment on blogs or topics and to request further information on topics that they identify as significant for their work.

Please send in any other suggestions and I will add them to the list. Please feel free to copy this blog for use in your own community or nonprofit newsletter. But please attribute the author and the website.

Dr Ian McCormick, recently published a new book:

The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences

UK version 
Smashwords e-book 


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