Twitter for Nonprofits in 2018: Rebirth or Retire? | Beth's Blog

Twitter for Nonprofits in 2018: Rebirth or Retire?

Digital Strategy

The past year, Twitter has been widely criticized for its role in spreading misinformation , being  a Petri dish for hate speech, and how it approaches world leaders use of the platform.  You will also see some of the most viscous attacks from trolls on Twitter and they are only rarely quieted with compassion.

On the other hand, some say Twitter is ready for a renaissance, a phoenix rising from the ashes. And while the bulk of nonprofits put most of their resources into Facebook (whether Facebook is perfect or not), there are many nonprofits effectively using Twitter and leveraging the platform for social good as well as their staff and leaders.  While Twitter and other platforms can amplify the under belly of the world, they can also connect people with nonprofit organizations and spread social good, joy, and even fun.

Take for example the #AskACurator hashtag created by a digital expert who works with museums almost five years ago and still active today.
Someone sent out a tweet wondering if London’s Natural History Museum and Science Museum went to war, which would win. One museum said they have dinosaurs; the other said they have robots. They kept going back and forth, and it went viral. The conversation was tweeted and re-tweeted thousands of times, and people joined in the fun.

Twitter has recently added some features, some met with “meh,” and others with controversy. If your nonprofit wants to up its Twitter game in 2018, here is a summary:

Tweet Storms and Threads:  Twitter  announced the launch of a new feature in December help users more easily post Tweetstorms – a series of related tweets posted by a Twitter user in quick succession, in order to share longer thoughts. While Tweetstorms have been around for awhile, with users finding workarounds to share them (for example numbering their tweets like this RedCross Tweetstorm) Here’s an example of how I used to share a link to my New Year’s post so I could engage with other people mentioned in the post. Here’s a powerful example of personal storytelling using the threads by Charlotte Clymer on depression and suicide. Here’s another example from the United Way. Here are some tips on using Tweetstorms.

Twitter Doubles Character Count:   Twitter officially doubled the character count for all users last November, 2017 after testing it. It was controversial as Twitters either liked it or hated and were vocal about their opinions. Caitlin Kelly posted an image of editing down Twitter’s announcement Tweet from 280 characters to 140, arguing that brevity was better. Twitter said it made the change because some languages require more characters, but the move is more likely growing the user base by making the service easier for newcomers. (Some wonder whether creating a non-toxic community where online abuse is seriously addressed would be more helpful.)

Twitter Accessibility Feature:   Did you know that Twitter has an option to let you add description to images for the visually impaired?  Twitter user Rob Long, who is a blind veteran, explains in a Tweet Storm, why this important. My colleague, Neil Parekh, created a Twitter Moment with some tips and resources.

These features are not new, but I don’t see a lot of nonprofits using them to engage followers or for storytelling.  (If your nonprofit has an example, please share in the comments.)

Twitter Moments:  Twitter moments was rolled out in 2015 as Twitter’s approach to curating breaking news for the platform. In 2016, Twitter made it possible for any user to create their Twitter Moment and link to their profile.  A Twitter moment is a collection of Tweets from different users that tells a story. I use moments to create stories based on Tweets from conferences or workshops that I’ve presented.  Here’s an example of using Moments from a Museum.  Unicef and the CPJ have do wonderful storytelling using Twitter Moments.

Twitter Polls:   Twitter Polls, the ability to do a flash survey, have been integrated with Tweets for some time. Here are the best practices. Here’s an example of how AskACurator used polls.  Twitter polls are limited to four answer options and have a lifespan of a week.

Twitter Lists:   Twitter lists are really useful for tracking trends in a specific area. I use them everyday for content curation, but there are many other ways to use lists.

To make your nonprofit’s use of Twitter productive, there are many tools out there to help you manage followers, measure your results, schedule, and more. The best list is from Buffer, The Big List of Twitter Tools.

Let’s see what happens to the platform in 2018. Maybe there will be more options for light engagement rather than “Love”?

Is your organization making the best of use of Twitter in 2018? Have a story, example, or tip to share?  Let me know in the comments.


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