I might be on a Quality Control string here, judging by the title of this post and my recent SSIR post, but I think it’s valid.

More and more people and organizations are using Twitter, the micro-blogging tool that lets users answer the question, “what are you doing?” with short 140-character sized posts to the world.  Even more people and organizations are talking about Twitter.  I’m sure you’ve heard buzz, whether you meant to or not, and whether you are a Twitter-er or not.

Darren Rowse’s post today on TwiTip focused on the question, “What value are you creating for your followers on Twitter? What’s in it for them?” I think this is a great question for individuals AND organization to consider and here’s how…

Quality Twitter-ing from Organizations

No one wants to be friends with a building, a billboard, or a fundraising flier. They want to be friends with people.  Even though your Twitter account (or you Facebook group, or anything else for that matter) is representing the organization, people still expect real people to be behind the messages.

Keeping your organization’s Twitter feed from feeling too impersonal is easy:

  • Have a conversation (using the @ feature on Twitter to reply to others’ messages)
  • Show some personality (comment, don’t just advertise)
  • Show some emotion (don’t fear the emoticon 🙂 or web laugh hahaha )
  • Be real (your organization probably doesn’t have an answer to everything, share links that aren’t just from your website)
  • Be helpful (use search tools like TweetScan or Twitter Search to find people talking about subjects you can help with and send them a link or info)

Recently, I looked at The Womens Museum’s Twitter feed for a slide I contributed at the NFPTweetup.  I examined the messages that appeared on the main page of The Womens Museum’s Twitter feed (the most recent 20 or so) at the time I visited – I was looking to see how balanced the messages were so created some categories and tallied the messages where they fit:

Self Promotion with Links: 6
Self Promotion without Links: 6

Questions with Links: 4
Questions without Links: 3

Fundraising with Links: 1
Fundraising without Links: 0

Affinity Promo with Links: 4
Affinity Promo without Links: 0

Information with Links: 0
Information without Links: 3

I think the numbers are pretty balanced!  The messages are true to mission/vision of the museum by including retweets (or forwarding on the messages of others), links to websites other than their own, compliments, transparency, and inclusion.
If you use Twitter for your organization, try measuring the messages with the above categories and see how balanced your messages are!  Or create new categories and see how the numbers work out.

Quality Twitter-ing from Individuals

Of course it’s always hard to lay yourself on the line by putting forth strategy, guidelines, or even tips.  Because, hey, look at me – oh wait, I’m not perfect either 🙂

Dan Bowsher, of Newbury, UK, nails the value of Twitter, I think, in his comment on The Evening Standard’s piece about Twitter (emphasis:

Twitter is not something you can gain any value from if you dip into it for a couple of hours. Twitter is about engaging with and building a community of people and allows you to tap into information, trends and opinions far quicker than traditional media. To that end, I find it invaluable. The fact that Twitter also enables developers to create applications that allow users to capitalise on its functionality, is also a major benefit.

Quality content on an individual user’s perspective is really rooted in engagement. Days when I feel like I’m disconnected, Twitter and email are too quiet, or I’m out of the loop with news and conversation, it’s becuase I haven’t connect with anyone.  Replies on Twitter are made using the @ and someone’s user name, like @amyrsward if you wanted to talk to me.  All I need to do is start listening, by browsing recent posts, and then responding to individuals using the @ to jump into the conversation, ask questions, or provide responses.  And as quickly as that, I’m back in.

It’s definitely a good idea to measure or gauge the balance of your individual Twitter stream as well, but it isn’t as easy as examining the organizational stream.  Here, because of the above point that conversation and engagement is key, it’s more important to measure between @ messages and standard messages.


  • You are, every day, building that personal-brand, but that doesn’t mean you get to be blowhorn
  • Potential clients, bosses, friends, or significant others could be reading what you say
  • People are ultimately good and have come together on free community tools like Twitter to share information, you should too
  • You get out what you put in; don’t be disappointed with the tool if you don’t have the time to set it up or use it

Ultimately, the Golden Rule of Twitter: Provide the links, information, conversation and content that you would like to find in everyone else’s stream, too.

Happy Twitter-ing, all!

Twitter, twittering, tweets: How to make Quality Content on Twitter
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  • Great insights into effective Twitter use. I’ll try to follow them, particularly your advice about the “golden rule.”

  • Thanks, Phil! I’d love to hear some thoughts you have about using Twitter or what has been surprising, exciting, or helpful in your adventures in Twitter-land 🙂

  • Really Helpful Post! We (Social Source Commons) have just begun to dip our toe into Twitter to see how we can engage the nonprofit community. It’s interesting to see the different perspectives on whether or not to start and how much time/effort one should put into it once they actually DO start.

    I did a blog post on Twitter Tools for Nonprofit Tools (http://blog.socialsourcecommons.org/?p=184). Do you use any? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • Hi Matt-

    Thanks for stopping by! The biggest, and most universal, piece of advice I can give about how much time to put into Twitter or any other social media tool is that you get out when you put in. If you only have time for one blog every other week, well, don’t plan on getting a big readership or starting lively discussions in the comments. The ROI of social media is really varied and very relative to the actual investment.

    I’m heading over to check out your post now as well! Thanks for sharing with the readers here!