Twitter is a service for people to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of short (140 character) messages. This micro-blogging tool has seen growing use over the last two years from individuals, activists, organizations and even news companies. (Click here for the Common Craft video on Twitter.)
Tu Diabetes is a great example of a group using Twitter to engage with communities online. Tu Diabetes is an online community where members help each other out, educate themslves and share the steps taken every day to stay healthy while living with this very serious condition. Tu Diabetes employs a gamut of web tools in its process of reaching out to new community members, keeping the community informed, and educating the public.
I recently spoke with Manny Hernandez, Tu Diabetes community founder, to take a closer look at Tu Diabetes’ Twitter story.
I asked Manny if Tu Diabetes has a policy or strategy for building the followers/following lists. He explained that, “every week or two, we do a search for the term “diabetes” on Twitter and selectively add certain people. We avoid adding people who are clearly using Twitter for SPAM or strictly commercial purposes. The Twitter search only looks in the people’s profiles, so we go a step further and use TweetScan to do a search in tweets containing the term “diabetes”. Then again, many of them are SPAM but a good number of them are legit and are made by people who could potentially be interested in what our community has to offer. We add those folks to our list of followed people. When you take a look at the product of our “adds” you see a very diabetes-centric timeline, which makes for a very interesting and inspiring reference. Also, we typically see people we add on Twitter joining the community. When people get a chance to see that you are for real, that the community is offering valuable information and support, people take the extra step and join. I don’t think this is something that works this way outside of nonprofit, but it is a model that I highly recommend for non-profits to try.”
I also asked what the specific strategy is for posting content via Twitter. Manny explained that, they “use Twitterfeed to automate the posting of a few of the RSS feeds that TuDiabetes has: forum topics, blog posts, etc. Depending on their volume we have Twitterrific posts to our Twitter account periodically (typically a few times per day) with relevant content (all our content is centered around diabetes). We also post manually periodically, every time there is a relevant topic or announcement that we want to make sure appears in our Twitter timeline.”
Twitter is a great avenue for cultivating and igniting conversations as well as getting your information out. I asked Manny if they had been part of some conversations within Twitter, and not just their online community space, and he confirmed that “occasionally other Twitter users contact us with questions. We’ve had a few media people contact us through Twitter too.”
I think Manny really nailed a great idea for organizations or online communities looking to explore Twitter’s use: “When people get a chance to see that you are for real, that the community is offering valuable information and support, people take the extra step and join. I don’t think this is something that works this way outside of nonprofit, but it is a model that I highly recommend for non-profits to try.”
Twitter, and other micro-blogging tools like Identi.ca and others, is another way organizations can be more open, transparent, and available in real-time to answer questions, provide information, and keep the community informed about both the work being done and ways to get involved. Here are some other organizational Twitter accounts you may want to check out:
- Nonprofits Assistance Fund – http://twitter.com/NAFund
- The Women’s Museum – http://twitter.com/TheWomensMuseum
- St. Jude Children’s Reasearch Hosptial – http://twitter.com/StJude
- Mara Triangle – http://twitter.com/maratriangle
- OneNW – http://twitter.com/onenw
Is your organization using Twitter, or are any of your staff members using it? What questions do you have for organizations adopting micro-blogging tools like Twitter?