Today, I had an opportunity to get out of the office and attend an event with other staff members of grantmaking organizations to talk about and think about some out-of-the box, but not really, things (hopefully additional blog post about that to come!). So, my mind was elsewhere and now I’m feeling a bit behind for all the great conversations happening today. I just saw this post from Beth and the interesting comments that others have left so far. In it Beth discusses some of her observations of social media use, including Twitter, and what others have said.

They were all on Facebook (turned their noses up at Myspace), watch YouTube videos, and use IM applications, with more 20 people on their IM lists. No surprise there. But, none used RSS readers or knew what they were. (Not sure if this matches demographic studies of RSS users or not because this group was under 18) They were aware of tagging, but in the sense of how it is used on Facebook – to tag your friends in photographs or notes, etc. None of them had heard of Twitter, let alone used it.

Click here to read all of the post.

When it comes to my use of Twitter, it is purely as an individual and not on behalf of or associated with my employer. But! One of the most frequent recommendations I have about the micro-blogging tool is its use as a broadcasting/community building/reputation building tools for organizations. For example, the Cascade Climate Network (full disclosure: this is an organization I frequently volunteer with) just started a twitter account and are going to integrate it into their blog/website as well as use it to build community and spread news, calls to action, information, and event opportunities to those interested in the youth climate change field. Why use it? Like I have said in the past, Twitter can open a window into the conversation already taking place in your industry and bring you into that conversation as a participant, as an information provider, and as a partner in shaping the conversation.

Beth quotes an interview with Walter J Carl in which he says:

“The people who I see using it are an older demographic, people in marketing or P.R. or advertising, who use it for work, to present themselves as particular types of people. They’ll twitter, ‘I’m traveling,’ or ‘I’m going to interesting restaurants.’ They’re using it to do identity work.”

I disagree. I think that many people in nonprofits using Twitter are truly building a community of people interested in their work or that can share insight in their work. They are using the tool as another facet of information gathering, listening, dispensing information, and having a conversation. I think this is what makes Twitter so powerful; not the “look at me” of going to a fancy restaurant (or at least twitter-ing that you are going there), but the “look at me” of please let me contribute, share knowledge, ask questions, and provide information.

As with most social media, I believe the resource and utility comes with the golden rule: do until to the tool and the community as you would have the tool and community do unto you! You have to give if you want to get and the Twitter community is growing to do just that!

What do you think?

Talking about Twitter
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  • I totally agree you, Amy “They are using the tool as another facet of information gathering, listening, dispensing information, and having a conversation”. I interact with a wide range of groups in twitter from educators, web designers, web programmers and non-profit and for the majority it’s not about building identity its about collaborating and helping one another, to gain knowledge at a considerably faster rate than we could independently.

    Shame the article from the New Times doesn’t have comments so we could share our tips on effective use of twitter etc.

  • drewbernard

    Amy, I agree with you completely

    “I think that many people in nonprofits using Twitter are truly building a community of people interested in their work or that can share insight in their work.”

    I have have had a twitter account for months, but haven’t until recently really found value in it… The value I find is precisely as you have describe. I often have 5 to 10 new tabs to review after going through my twitters. Interesting use case with CCN, also..

  • I think Twitter is an excellent tool for any non-profit to use to get the word out about important issues, find new volunteers, encourage participation in various action items, etc.

    However, I think it’s critically important to remember that Twitter should be used as a communication tool and not simply as a megaphone.

    I realize that staff and volunteers are already stretched thin, but even a small level of interaction is what builds community. Answer questions from the community; get to know your staff and volunteers on a more personal level (with the secondary benefit of learning about skills or connections that may be of benefit to the non-profit); live-tweet events like Breast Cancer walks; find ways for the Twitter community to interact for a good cause; etc.

  • Marina- Thanks for the additional examples! You add a great point that I completely agree with but obviously failed to include: the conversation and communication in Twitter is not and should not be one sided. It shouldn’t be shouting out at the Twitter-verse, as it were, but communicating WITH the community.

    Drew- Glad you are investigating the value add for yourself – keep us updated on lessons you learn or insights you have!

    Sue- You bring up a great example, that the conversations you have on Twitter can be a much faster connection to answers, information, and news. I know that I personally have had experiences with breaking news and new releases of reports that I was only exposed to thanks to Twitter.

  • kanter1

    I think it also works as a way to get fast input from people too – not just to tell people what you are doing – but get people’s thoughts .. great post!

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