With 55 million visits and 6 million unique visits per month, Twitter is – without a doubt – one of the most successful social networking websites ever launched. It is also one of the fastest growing, with 72.5% of users signing up in the first 5 months of 2009, including 42.4% in March and April alone.
This article concentrates on practical ways in which charities can harness the power of this incredible online phenomenon.
Building a support base with Twitter is easy. The best way to experience this is to sign up for a free account and begin ‘following’ people of interest. Twitter’s widely acknolweged but as yet unwritten etiquette infers that it is fine to ‘follow’ people you don’t know. They can choose whether or not to follow you back – and, in my experience, people will almost always follow a good cause.
The next step is to consider what you are going to do with your followers. Twitter presents unrivalled opportunities for building brand awareness for your charity. Posting once or twice a day will get your message in front of your followers. Make that message interesting, informative and even evocative – and your followers will re-tweet and discuss them, driving more followers towards you.
If building brand awareness with Twitter is as simple as posting once or twice a day, consider what’s possible with a bit of work. The miracle of Twitter – and the trick to successfully turning your Twitter following into a loyal support base – is to engage with your followers on a personal level. Charities doing this effectively include Greenpeace, The National Trust and the RSPB.
The RSPB have a great mix of one-on-one engagement, and interesting, informative and relevant posts. Posts such as “@charliebarker wow! Thanks for that. Every penny makes a difference for conservation, and if u have fun bringing them in, so much the better!” sit happily alongside posts such as “Ever wondered what it’s like to live on a nature reserve? Check out our video about residential volunteering”.
Once you have an established support base, the possibilities are endless.
Fronting a cause which is not known about? Testicular cancer would have been a case-in-point a few years ago. Twitter enables you to quickly and effectively raise awareness.
Promoting an event? Twitter offers a fast, free and effective way to get details in front of thousands of supporters.
Need to instantly gauge public reaction to something? Twitter has the answer! Pose the question and have real-world answers flooding in within minutes.
High profile support and/or comment? Water Aid used Twitter to direct the following question at Nick Clegg – “G8 fails on water and sanitation, where do Lib Dems sit?”
One final use of Twitter – although I was unable to find a good example – is as a means of providing your services. Dogsblog use Twitter to inform their followers every time a new dog comes up for adoption, but a debt charity – for example – could use the service to provide specific advice to individuals.