reader question

Twitter for Fun and Non-Profit

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!)


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

  • – 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 (,, 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.


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

Digg the Delicious RSS

Geeky Reader Madge from Minneapolis asked, “RSS. Digg. Delicious. What the heck do they all mean and how do I use them?” Great question, mom! I mean…um…Madge.

Let’s digg in!


I did a three-part series on RSS a couple of months ago, which you can read here, here and here. In a nutshell, RSS is a way for sites to syndicate their content, and for readers to subscribe to it. Common Craft did a fantastic short video explaining it all here:


Digg allows people to share stuff they think is cool. The more people “digg” something (an article, video, or image), the higher it rises in the rankings. For example, here is a list of the most popular articles on Digg over the past 24 hours. On the left, you can see how many diggs each article has. (Getting “dugg” can result in a lot of traffic to an article, sometimes to the point that the site is overwhelmed with traffic and either goes down, or becomes very sluggish. This is sometimes called the “Digg effect.”)

Anyone with a Digg account can submit something they think is cool (like, say, a Geek Girls Guide article). If other Digg users see it and also like it, they “digg” it. Users also police the content by using “bury” on duplicate, spam, or off-topic items. And, it just wouldn’t be Web 2.0 if they didn’t allow you to build a “network” would it? So, you can connect to friends on Digg to share diggs with each other. Or…just install the Digg Facebook app.

Digg has a good explanation on their site as well.


Delicious is a social bookmarking service. Wha? Okay…do you know about bookmarks in your web browser? If you don’t, read this paragraph. If you do, skip to the second paragraph. Bookmarks are a way to create a shortcuts to sites you really like. Every web browser has this (some may refer to bookmarks as “Favorites” but it’s the same thing). So, if you visit CNN every morning, you can create a Bookmark and click on it instead of typing “” into the address bar every time. (Or, you could just subscribe to the RSS feed, right?!)

Delicious stores your bookmarks online. So, whether I’m on my computer, my mom’s computer, or the library computer, I can log in to Delicious to see all my favorite sites. In addition, I can “tag” the sites with keywords to keep things organized.

Here’s a snapshot of my Delicious account: