Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Twitter Me This

Add one more social network site to your organization's list of communications tools - Twitter is the latest in a long list of ways to communicate with, and to, those who are interested in your organization's work.

What is twitter? It's essentially a shared space where people answer the question "what are you doing right now?" with short posts called "tweets". Answers range from the innocuous (someone in my group just posted the name of the movie they're watching), to the political (many people in my group are commenting on the Florida primary results), to the obscure (someone in my group is working on a slideshow about knitting). Just as often, these short tweets will break news or encourage conversations on topics that might not find a home in mainstream media.

I often think of twitter as the hum of background chatter you might hear in a bar when you walk in. It's strangely soothing, and it acts as in indicator of activity - the louder the hum, the more interesting the bar. You can ignore the individual conversations but still feel plugged in to the larger group - or you can pick up on a conversation that interests you and choose to either listen or join in.

How are organizations using twitter? NPR's Bryant Park Project sometimes uses twitter to solicit listener comments and questions during their live broadcast. Barack Obama's campaign (as well as Hillary Clinton's and John Edwards') uses twitter to update supporters on progress and give them an inside view into their campaigns (although, to be sure, campaign staffers rather than the candidates themselves keep those tweets up to date).

How can your organization use twitter? If your organization is focused on a sector where things change quickly, and if your organization tends to have web-savvy constituents, twitter might be an excellent way to keep new news flowing quickly to those who are interested. Before diving in, however, be sure to test the waters. Sign up for an account and begin to follow people and organizations you personally find interesting. If you find you can't stop twittering, it may be worth adding twitter to your organization's online strategy.

For more on using Twitter in the non-profit sector, check out Beth Kanter's great post here.

For a great case study detailing how the Brooklyn Museum is using Twitter, blogs, Flickr and YouTube, read Dave Evans' great post here.

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