What Twitter Taught Me About Writing

[This is the latest weekly post from our intern, Tessa. You can find all her posts here.Delete Button

Twitter has forced me to learn something valuable. Its 140 character per post rule has shown me that, more often that not, I’m using more words than I need to.

When Twitter isn’t monitoring what I type, sometimes I don’t even know I’m using too many words. And I’ve never been the verbose type. Those who have met me know that I won’t talk your ear off without some coaxing (or without some wine). I always struggled to meet minimum page number requirements in school. Yet, even I say much more than I need to.

Take, for example, this article I shared the other day via social media. I started by quoting the article and adding my own thoughts:

Nonprofits win awards for clear communications. Why? “If there’s any (common) thread, it’s they keep in mind the needs of the reader.”

Twitter wouldn’t let me say all that and include a link to the article and a shout out to the person shared the article with me. After some deliberation, I ended up with:

Nonprofit clear communication winners “…keep in mind the needs of the reader.”

So simple. So clear. Yet, it still conveys the same information. Remember, the clearer your message is, the more people will read and understand it.

Writing concisely is not easy. In fact, it’s very difficult for most people. As Mark Twain famously said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

The good news is, concise writing is a habit that can be learned. A good place to start is with your organization’s mission statement. Challenge yourself to say the same thing with 3 less words. Depending on your organization, you may be able to get to 5, 10, or even 15 less words! Also, look critically at the next thing you write for your organization. It could be anything – even an email. See how short you can make your message while still keeping the original meaning. You’ll notice you often eliminate the same filler words or sentences over and over. “I just wanted to let you know…” is a common culprit. Pretty soon, you won’t even try to type those extra words.

No matter how good you get, you’ll always need to stay conscious of the words you’re using. They’re what connects you to your audience. Make the most of them.

Show don’t tell (Neo fo ym vaforite twetes)

Room to Read believes world change starts with educated children. Their focus? Literacy and gender equality in education.

In a stellar example of show don’t tell, they posted this tweet:

Hwat wdulo hte lrodw kolo lkei fi ouy ocldu otn erda? Noigmeths kile stih. #RTforLiteracy (Each RT=$1 to @RoomtoRead) bit.ly/ILD2011

Translation: “What would the world look like if you could not read? Something like this. (Each RT=$1 to @RoomtoRead) bit.ly/ILD2011”.

140 characters of awesome, that’s what that is. They showed you how confusing and disorienting it is when you can’t read something–a feeling you can’t easily describe.

Words are valuable. Using them to show rather than tell? Priceless.

 

 

Social Networking

Participants’ Key Take-Aways

1. This confirmed my feelings about how social media is about establishing relationships rather than just getting followers.

2. I want to explore separating our online channels to focus each tool on one audience or creating two accounts within a certain tool that each target a separate audience.

3. I know I need to work with my board to talk about our long term goals. We need to know our key messages and audiences.

4. I like the idea of using a donor-centered approach to our social media rather than an organization-centered approach.

Conversation Re-cap

Social Media Concerns and QuestionsDiscussion & Conclusions
We have too many target audiences and we have a hard time figuring out what to post since we have different audiences.Pick one tool per audience. Find out where your audience is online and what they are doing before you choose a tool. [Tip from Erica: If your organization has more than 5 target audiences, you probably have more than you can manage well. Narrow your list!]
How do we get our supporters to be involved and share with each other on our online portals like Facebook.Know your audience so that the content you provide will spark a discussion. Some organizations have personally asked their best supporters to stimulate conversations online. [Tip from Erica: Be clear on your goals. Some organizations use their Facebook feed as a way to stay top-of-mind with supporters and therefore wouldn’t be concerned if their “likers” weren’t actively engaged in discussion. Lack of “likes” isn’t always a terrible thing.]
Older donors and supporters who are offline are saying that they don’t see any marketing materials anymore.Go back to your goals. Are you meeting them? If you are meeting your goals and you have a limited budget, you’re doing fine. [Tip from Erica: Just because you “could” doesn’t mean you “should”.]
We see other nonprofits doing matching campaigns on Facebook where you advertise that your organization is getting $1 for every new “Liker”. Is this effective?It depends. Who are you reaching out to? A local organization that was effective at this reached out to former tutors who were very engaged with the organization at one time. They asked them to like their page because they’d get $1 for every new like. This worked to engage the former tutors to become re-engaged. [Tip from Erica: Except in select instances, use Facebook as a way to deepen relationships so your asks are more effective, rather than a vehicle for making the ask.]
We’ve struggled with knowing how fun or personal we can be on social media sites. We’re not sure about what rules to create.Social Media Policies can be helpful. Once you are clear on your audience and messaging, that will inform your social media decisions. You’ll understand your audiences better and be able to make more informed decisions about what to post and where. [Tip from Erica: Having a Brand Dashboard can help you address this issue, as well.]
There seems to be new tools all of the time.Tools will change. Geolocation is becoming all the rage for example with tools like Foursquare and Facebook Places. Don’t over-invest in a tool because people will move on. [Tip from Erica: If you invest in knowing how to decide which new tools to use based on your goals and target audience(s), you’ll be in good shape long-term!]

 

November Handouts and Resources

 

1. Read the Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide.

 

2. Watch Idealware’s Video: Facebook vs Twitter.

 

3. Read ‘5 Must-Follow Non-Profits Making a Difference With Social Media’.

 

4. Download and Review the ‘Claxon_4 Social Media Tools for Nonprofits‘.

 

 

5. Check out Social Media Club Seattle The Seattle branch of Social Media Club, a national organization with the purpose of sharing best practices, establishing ethics and standards, and promoting media literacy around the emerging area of Social Media. Our members are present across a wide variety of networks and we encourage you to reach out and join us. (Thanks for the tip Eileen!)

 

 

Thanks to our Special Guest: Carrie Zanger

Carrie Zanger of True Good Creative shared her technical expertise with us as well as a story about the It Gets Better Project initiated by Dan Savage. Why did this become viral? There was an authentic moment and people related to that very deeply. It immediately inspired and sparked great interest. Thanks, Carrie!

6 Steps to Going Social Without Going Crazy

Integrating social media into your marketing mix can be daunting. So many options, so little time! In an effort to save you time and keep you sane, we’ve created the following six step process and actionable item checklists for the most popular tools.

 

 

Claxon’s 6 Step Process to Going Social Without Going Crazy

    1. Use IdealWare’s fantastically helpful workbook in their Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide to figure out which tools make sense given your goals. (If you don’t know what your goals are, first do the 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree.)
    2. Pick 1 or 2 tools. Most organizations don’t have the capacity to do more than two well enough to make it worth it.
    3. Find the accompanying checklist(s) below and decide which items you’ll tackle. Remember: it’s better to do a few things really well, than a bunch of things only so-so.
    4. Identify who will be in charge of each tool and have them block out the time needed each week to do it. (Even though the tools are free, it requires time to make them pay off!)
    5. Review your progress monthly.
    6. Assess strategy vis-a-vis goals annually.

Checklists by Tool

Facebook

Expect to spend 2-4 hours per week, ideally with at least one post per day.

  • Create a Facebook Fan page and get a customized url for your fan page. John Haydon provides a great video with detailed instructions.
  • “Like” the nonprofits you partner with that also have Facebook pages. Engage with those organizations by commenting on their posts and engaging with their supporters.
  • Be consistent and commit to what you will post on Facebook.  It will help you to think about who you are trying to reach and what action you want them to take.
  • Use Ads to direct people to useful information on your Facebook Page or website.  (Don’t try to sell or fundraise with Facebook Ads.)
  • Repurpose content – post images, video, slides, etc. and drive people to take action such as signing up for your e-newsletter or visit your website.
  • Promote your Fan Page in your email signatures and on your other online outposts.
  • Create a “Facebook Fans Only” offer, do it to see who engages and make your Facebook fans feel special at the same time.

Twitter

 Expect to spend 1.5-2 hours per week, ideally with at least one or two posts per day.

  • Use Twitter Search to find people to follow who are talking about your organization or topics related to your mission and aggregate into lists using free tools like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.
  • Follow a number of people in your topic area and community and re-tweet their posts.
  • Create a list on Twitter of everyone that re-tweets your posts.  Then, promote your list to your other followers.
  • Repurpose your content such as your blog posts and Facebook posts.
  • Add link to your blog or website and customize with your logo.
  • Promote your Twitter account in your email signatures and through your other online mechanisms.
  • After you hold an event, help spread the word by creating a specific hashtag for your attendees to use.  For example, if you are hosting a speaker, put up a sign near the speaker that says, “If you are tweeting about this event, use #xyz.” (For an example of how we did this at a recent event, search for #NPlab.)

Blog

Expect to spend 4-8 hours per week, ideally with at least one post per week (the time per week includes not only the writing time, but time spent following other related blogs, generating comments and responding to comments)

  • Create a list of 5 influencers who are passionately blogging about your industry – regularly read and make thoughtful comments.  (Tip: Setup Google Reader as a listening station.)
  • Be consistent by having a clear strategy for what you’ll write about.  Start with 5 or 6 relevant categories and rotate through them.
  • Drive traffic to your blog by linking your blog to your website.
  • Search engines love blogs so figure out what people are searching for related to your organization’s mission and write about that.  Read this post to learn more about improving your nonprofit website’s search results.
  • Ask for comments and install share buttons such as a Facebook ‘Like’ button or a ‘Share This‘ to engage your readers.
  • Post customer case studies, educational pieces, and invite guest bloggers to write. This helps bring personality to your blog and can increase traffic to your site or store.  Here’s an example of a guest blogger on the Getting Attention! Blog.
  • Give your biggest fans another way to keep up with your blog or podcast feed by placing an email subscription form on your site with a service like Feedburner or Feedblitz.

Linkedin

Expect to spend 1-2 hours per week, ideally joining in at least one conversation per week.

  • Read this post explaining effective uses for nonprofits using Linkedin.
  • Look for groups or other organizations who are discussing your cause.  Sign-up for email updates and join the conversation.  As an alternative, you could also add relevant Linkedin Questions-Answers to your RSS Reader.
  • Post updates on your individual account to share relevant information with your supporters who are connected to you.  Note that Linkedin works with Twitter and vise versa.
  • Refer and make recommendations for past employees, volunteers, and board members.
  • Start a Linkedin Group, and encourage your organization’s key employees and board members to have their own profiles and join the group so that each member becomes an ambassador for your organization.
  • Use for prospect research and finding out who knows who. If you start a Linkedin Group, you will be able to see all the Linkedin contacts for each of your group members, making it easy see if there is anyone to whom you’d like an introduction.
  • Add your blog RSS feeds to your Linkedin Profile. Here’s one way to do it: How to Add a Blog to your LinkedIn Profile with BlogLink.

Flickr (or other photo sharing website)

Depending on your goals, time and frequency spent on photo sharing sites will vary.  For example, you may spend more time after an event or while trying to build a particular group of followers.

  • Tag your photos to let people easily find or submit photos.  If, for instance, you have an event, tell all your event attendees to upload their pictures on Flickr and tag with your selected tag.  Example:  O’Reilly Emerging Technologies conference in 2006.
  • Embed your Flickr account photos on your website and include a link to your website on your Flickr profile.
  • Use your photos to drive people to your website in your next e-newsletter.  For example, you could include a link to pictures from a recent event.
  • Look for cause-related groups and comment on existing photos to discover new partners and supporters.  For example if you are a organization focused on microfinance, try doing a search for other organizations posting on Flickr by searching for groups with “microfinance” in the description.
  • Search for keywords that include your organization name to see what people are saying about you.

Youtube (or other video sharing website)

Again, depending on your goals, time and frequency spent on photo sharing sites will vary.  However, it is a good idea to check-in at least a couple of times per week to read and respond to any comments.

  • Watch Youtube’s Basic Tips
  • Ask your supporters to share videos with their family and friends to spread your message.
  • Share, embed and link your Youtube videos on your other online portals.
  • Encourage your supporters to send in their own videos to build a repository about your cause.
  • Use your videos to tell stories and drive people to your website in your next e-newsletter.
  • Look for cause-related groups and comment on existing videos. For example, if you are an education focused nonprofit in Seattle, try doing a Youtube search for “education+seattle+nonprofit” to discover new partners and supporters.
  • If you are a larger organization like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, search for keywords that include your organization name to see what people are saying about you.

Are we missing any key action items that have helped you maximize your use of the tools above?  Let us know!