Twitter for Fun and Non-Profit

posted on 3/20/09 by Meghan Wilker

Geeky reader Justine from Chicago wrote in and said, "I'm not currently a tweeter and feel I am slowly grasping it's potential and reach, but still don't really know how I could best utilize this interest/stream?"

She was asking about Twitter specifically in relation to monitoring discussion about the non-profit that she works for, and their different products (for lack of a better word).

My answer? Twitter, Facebook and all the other tools that people collectively refer to as "social media" essentially make public the conversations that used to happen in people's homes and over the phone. You can now listen in on a conversation that used to take place over a backyard fence.

So, you can use it in two ways: listening and/or participating. Listening is vital — just so you know what's being said. Participating is optional, but can be a very powerful way to connect with your existing audience and build a new audience.

How you do that is up to you: you could tweet as yourself (which I would suggest) and/or as your company (which is less personal, but could also work). The key is to provide value either way. If you have a company account, make sure to not just tweet about what you are up to, but really engage with your industry as a community. (See also: my list of Twitter complaints from a few weeks ago. Specifically - Twitter should not be a replacement for your RSS feed. Give us something other than news releases!)

Listening

A selection of ways to monitor what's being discussed in the Twitterverse:

  • search.twitter.com - Check the web interface anytime, or subscribe to an RSS feed of a given search. I monitor the words Geek Girls and Geek Girls Guide on Twitter via RSS, so I know almost instantly anytime someone tweets with those terms. If I choose, I can shoot those people a message saying hey, thanks how did you hear about us, etc.
  • BackTweets: Enter in a specific URL and get a list of tweets that link to it. What I love about this is that it also returns results from URL shorteners (tinyurl.com, is.gd, etc.). Twitter search doesn't, so using RSS from Twitter search and BackTweets I monitor just about every Geek Girls-related tweet. (Or I feel like I do!)
  • Twitt(URL)y: Kind of like Digg for tweets. (Need a Digg overview? I did one here.) Monitor popular URLs that are being tweeted. What I don't like about this one, is that there's not an obvious way to search for a URL. Harrumph.

Participating

Here are a few resources to help you get started with using Twitter for yourself or your company:

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