What’s your Handle?

Twitter. It is an amazing technology that has brought so many people together. I honestly can’t believe how quickly it has become the norm for social interaction and how quickly those interactions spread. There was a time when I thought only the Kardashians tweeted…and now look at us. Certainly this is a huge win for organizations looking to take their social strategy to the next level, but like other social media technologies, it’s worth putting in the effort to plan and strategize to take full advantage of where this platform can take you.

Our peer to peer interaction is now visible and searchable by the public in 140 characters or less. It’s that simple, really. With a #hashtag conversation starter and a @username mention or retweet, you can be in a dialogue with your choice of celebrity, CEO or better, and get your passionate word out to the world. On this simple, free and open platform, anyone can follow anyone, but be wary of getting blocked!

Whoo Tweets?

A “tweeter” is considered as someone who tweets at least once a week and tweeters are thought as highly socially connected, as are those who read tweets (groundswell, 2011). As of 2010, only 7% of US online adults were actively using Twitter, but such a small group was still considered to be a very influential bunch. Currently, that number is much higher, with 310 million monthly active users (Twitter, 2016) and that group of users with influence has become enormous. If an individual has a large following, they are pushed into becoming a key influence, by posting more tweets and keeping their following engaged. If we look at the Social Technographics Profile of a Tweeter, we’ll find they are three times more likely to be Creators, twice as likely to be Critics and half as likely to be Joiners as compared to typical consumers (groundswell, 2011). As such, they are ready to be the influence that we need on Twitter.

Twitter Tips

Twitter is relatively simple, but there are a few hidden gems you should be aware of. TweetDeck is a full screen interface for Twitter, that allows you to see an overall dashboard of your Twitter feed. It would be an asset for someone whose account takes off and needs to organize and categorize notifications, newsfeed and messages. Another is bit.ly, a link management platform, that essentially shortens a web link so it can be accommodated by Twitter’s short character rule. This one is a must have. Tools like Klout evaluate the influence of Twitter users and helps improve just that. Flipboard, one of my personal favorites, collects Twitter links and creates a magazine of articles, photos and videos. Hard to resist such an easy reading format.


Strategy over Technology

We can pull the same standard social media strategy objectives over to our Twitter plan. Listening is the most important, as it is typically always needed in order to move on to another strategy. How will you know what to share or discuss if having not first listened to your followers or potential followers? This is how you can determine what they are most interested in. Talking seems like a big component of Twitter since it is mainly an open dialogue, for everyone to participate in. After all, brevity inspires curiosity (Hartwick, 2015). But be wary of simply broadcasting your press releases and never responding to questions. This is essentially….boring. Unless you’re as popular as expert blogger Seth Godin, @ThisIsSethsBlog, who has over fifty-five thousand followers, follows zero people and never responds to comments (groundswell, 2011), you won’t be getting away with that. Southwest Airlines, @SouthwestAir, is a good example of executing a Talking strategy well. Not only do they tweet deals and news, but they actually respond to service related issues, and quickly (groundswell, 2011). Energizing is talking, but to the right people. You really need to listen to find the most enthused who are very interested in your products or services OR something related that you tap into to get a response and want to share. Dunkin’ Donuts found an interesting opportunity where they reached out to two people who were promoting a JetBlue travel promotion and gave them gift cards to use on their journey. Dunkin’ felt they were living the slogan “America Runs on Dunkin”. I bet they tweeted about it! Supporting is equally as important and is again to follow listening. What do your followers need? They will let you know and actually expect you to respond and quickly. Twitter is known as an instant communication tool and it’s in your best interests to plan accordingly for that. AT&T was surprised to find so many product related issues on Twitter’s trending topics and ones that were easily solved. They revised their strategy to include Twitter and set out to fix this by including a department working long hours with two main twitter handles and individual ones for the service reps as well. They serve around two thousand people every month and are now NOT a trending topic on twitter (groundswell, 2011).Even the famous Ashton Kutcher, @aplusk, who was once the top person on Twitter, got a response from the team. As stated by the Chief Marketing Officer at PEMCO, Rod Brooks, “People may start out with a bit of criticism, but can be turned into advocates” (groundswell, 2011). The most difficult objective is Embracing. How do you truly engage your followers and allow them to essentially create something for you? Links to surveys, providing incentive and prizes, or requesting feedback on a specific product or service. Look at Starbucks’ popular @myStarbucksIdea, where you can communicate your ultimate coffee creation and see if they bite. Exciting! Although, really, it doesn’t get much better than a caramel macchiato, does it? OR, you can simply engage in an interesting dialogue, by…asking an inquisitive question and peak interest.

But what about non profit organizations? The same strategies can apply to help achieve your goals. A good example of Listening and Talking is the Terry Fox Foundation of Canada with 32.3K followers and 4,885 tweets, since 2010. They tweet regularly about the latest research, supporters, events, join current conversations and their followers like it!

My son participated in a daycare walk for a few years; what a great idea:

They join current, passionate dialogues that are in the headlines:

And they occasionally remind us of the hero that was Terry Fox:

Prepare for Success

Here are a few tips and tricks to ensure your success. Get your Twitter handle under lock and key, unless you want it sabotaged by a non-fan or worse. Remember, listen first, then move forward with your strategy and be ready to support your followers since they WILL expect it. Be ready for a PR nightmare…but be confident that Twitter is the instant tool that can help you relieve the crisis. Make sure to have a department or staff who are responsible for these timely efforts. Check with any legal or regulatory guidelines before tweeting to ensure you’re allowed to go public with specific content. Don’t forget to follow others to help find interesting, current news and links. This is, after all, what Twitter is all about! Include responses, retweets, links, news articles, blog posts, photos or video links and try not to repeat your tweets as it shows up for all to see. Make a plan that includes an established presence, so you don’t waste a gathered following (groundswell, 2011) and incorporate this into your overall social strategy. Now….let’s Tweet about it!


Charlene Li, J. B. (2011). groundswell. Forrester Research, Inc.
Hartwick, C. (2015, 04 16). Retrieved from http://www.techsoupcanada.ca: https://www.techsoupcanada.ca/en/community/blog/social-media-101-using-twitter-for-your-nonprofit
Twitter. (2016). Twitter. Retrieved from https://about.twitter.com/company
Terry Fox Foundation of Canada. (2016).Retrieved from /https://twitter.com/TerryFoxCanada?lang=en
Photo by Martins Zemlickis at https://unsplash.com/photos/WL8ePvjN75E


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