I finished teaching my first Social Media for Nonprofits Class last week at Virginia Commonwealth University, for a program called Nonprofit Learning Point. I had a great class of 24 patient students as we navigated the basics of twitter, facebook, wordpress, roi, fundraising on social media, and more. I fielded some great questions and even got some great ideas. John Sarvay (two links for this guy!) a local blogger, small business owner, dad - spoke about the separation between the personal and professional. Got me thinking about spending more time defining who I want to be on twitter and why that is an important excercise. John Sarvay shared some less than stellar words on some local tweeter's mishaps including blurring the line between chatty and caddy and political and irrelevant. Today I witnessed a national author (from @wired) post 55 tweets in 15 minutes. Basically she used twitter to post an article. It was neither interesting nor an effective use of twitter. So, it is easy to mess up on twitter which is why creating your twitter personality is important.
1. Clear Boundaries - It is just as important to define who you are as who you are not. Spend some time thinking about what you will not do on twitter.
2. It's a Conversation - Twitter more so than other forms of social media, is a conversation. It should be back and forth. As a small business or nonprofit on twitter you must dance the line between getting involved in local issues and getting too involved. Tweeting about your local dinner at a restaurant might or might not be a good idea for a nonprofit - maybe they are a donor - or a future donor (or a former donor after your tweet.)
3. No more than 3 Reasons to Exist - This part is key. If you have more than three general topic areas to tweet about - it will become difficult for your followers to stay interested and you will not be able to engage with your audience.
4. Decide your follower identity - Are you choosy or do you want a follower count like Ashton Kutcher? Being thoughtful about who you will follow will improve your twitter experience. I suggest nonprofits should follow newsmakers (@philanthropy), funders (130 foundations that tweet) and local and national #nonprofits (here is the rva list)
5. Who you are on twitter should match who you are in life. If you are a feisty advocacy organization, by all means your tweets should be feisty and fierce. If you are a conservative and safe organization - your tweets should follow suit.
So my twitter identities?
@MilstonConsult is an RVA based consulting company specializing in nonprofit organizations. I tweet on 1. local issues to create conversations. 2. Local and national nonprofit news and trends 3. local and national social media news and trends. I never use a client's name unless I am celebrating a success we are having together. I will tweet about vendors I am working with- both positive and negative interactions. I will follow local and national nonprofits and nonprofit interests as well as local and national social media people/places/things. I will also be active in my RVA community. I will not tweet about my personal life (except those occasions where I am sleepy or otherwise distracted and I experience multi-tasking #fail and tweet under the wrong username.)
@SarahMilston is an RVA attachment parenting wife and mother. I will tweet on 1. my partner 2. our life 3. our daughter Since she is a toddler that includes tweets about breastfeeding, diapers, and her neverending quest to stay up all night. I will converse with friends about the aforementioned topics and comment on all things rva related. I will not tweet about my business except just every so often.