You may have heard of twitter, the site where people post up to 140 characters about “what they’re doing.” Well actually, if they post about what they’re doing, like “Going to the supermarket” or “Brushing my teeth,” they won’t do to well on twitter. In any case, twitter is one of the hottest social networks right now, and it is generally agreed that it is a great tool for networking and marketing your business.

But how about promoting your non-profit or cause with twitter? Like many things in this age of social media, what works for businesses often works well for non-profits too, and the same is the case for twitter.

How twitter works

Every twitter user sets up a profile, where they get their own URL like www.twitter.com/username. Their profile displays their username, which can actually be different than what appears in their URL, a short blurb with up to 160 characters about who they are, and a display of how many people they’re following, and how many people follow them.

Here’s my personal/business profile on twitter:

As you can see, the main part of the screen displays my username and profile picture, and my latest “tweet” (update) is prominently displayed. Under there are all my previous tweets displayed chronologically. In the right-hand bar is my real name, location, bio, web site, number of followers and following. You can click on the word “followers” or “following” to see who exactly is following me, or who I am following.

You may also notice that my profile page has a unique design, with different colors than the standard twitter page, and my company’s logo displayed on the left. You can create a personalized home page design, which is recommended. It’s not too difficult, and just takes a bit of playing around with, but it’s a good way to expand your branding over to twitter.

When I view my home page, I don’t just see my tweets, but the tweets of everyone I’m following, displayed chronologically, like so:

Here are three quick tips for getting started with twitter:

  1. Provide useful information in your tweets: Never follow the twitter guide of What are you doing? Instead, post links to useful information in your field of interest, or that you think your follows will enjoy. Also, do not over-promote your cause. People will learn about your cause indirectly by following you and seeing you as an expert in your area.
  2. How to reply to other twitterers (also known as tweeple): When replying to someone on twitter, use the @ symbol before their username, i.e. @username. They will be able to see that in their @Replies section, which is available in the right-hand bar of their home page. It is important to have conversations with other twitter users to strengthen your network and meet others.
  3. Think carefully about your bio: Make sure you have a bio in your profile so people can see who you are. Trust plays an important role in the world of social media, so you must give people real, credible information so that they can see you are a real person.

There are many twitter and third-party tools that you can use to enhance your twitter experience. Brian Solis has a great overview at Twitter Tools for Community and Communications Professionals where he has published an amazing looong list of tools you can use to build up your twitter community.

Here are some links to other articles that discuss using twitter for non-profits and social change:

Twitter and NonProfits from Me Like the Interweb – this post discussses how you and your supporters can use twitter, and gives examples of non-profit success with twitter.

Twitter for Nonprofits from The Fundraising Coach – gives reasons why you should consider using twitter, with links to useful resources on the subject

5 Ways to Use Twitter for Good from Stepcase Lifehack – great tips for how to use twitter to get some good stuff going

How Some Non-Profits Use Twitter from Betsy’s Blog – links to some prominent organizations and how they’re using twitter. Good to see same case studies like this.

Twitter and Non-Profits from Zen and the Art of Nonprofit Technology – this post discusses why twitter ain’t for everybody

Twitter’s not for every business or organization, but it’s worth getting to know it so that you can assess whether it will help your non-profit, and if so, how.

amuta 2.0 on twitter!

In honor of this post, amuta 2.0 is now on twitter! Yes, there’s not much there right now. Ok, there’s nothing there, but come follow us, we’ll follow you, and we hope to provide some useful links there to good resources about non-profits and social media. Here’s the link to our profile: http://twitter.com/amuta2point0

Happy twittering (or tweeting, as we say in twitter-world)!

(The following article was originally published in Haaretz, and is republished here with permission of the author)

The weekend after Rosh Hashanah, a TV show called “Shavuah Sof” (“Endweek”) ran a skit in which one of the show’s hosts complained that he had been overloaded with so many “Happy New Year” text messages that his phone continued buzzing for days. “If you really want to wish me a happy new year,” he concluded, “call. Let me hear your voice.”

Only a few years ago, one may still have received a few cards in the mail. But as our electronic address has taken the place of our physical one, expecting cards is expecting too much. Rootlessness – the high-frequency relocating of the present day – has become the norm for many of us, especially those who have been empowered by technology to travel in pursuit of opportunities without the fear of losing touch with those we love.

Few holidays are as reflective of our times, therefore, as the seven days in which we are commanded to sit in booths: Sukkot, the holiday of the ingathering of the autumn harvest, takes on new meaning today, with much of the world open to our temporary residencies, thanks to near-universal acceptance of Jews, and the power of information technologies.

Borders are open to us, and with debit cards, search engines and GPS-enabled maps at our disposal, we can find our way around most anywhere with ease, and pay our way in local currency. All this has increased the mobility of the average member of the first digital generation – especially the highly educated and opportunity-minded we have by the dozen.

What is remarkable is that Jewish culture, too, has been liberated from the restrictions of time and space. “In the past year I’ve traveled to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and the U.K.,” recalls David Abitbol, the Jerusalem-based founder of Jewlicious.com, an engine of young Jewish culture around the world. “I’ve been to Canada, and on both coasts of the United States. In all cases, I based my itineraries on availability of Internet access. I was able to continue working wherever I was.”

From a day-to-day communal point of view, however, the fruits of this change have been varied. “Increased travel has, at least for those Jewishly identified, resulted in more Jews becoming familiar with Jews and Jewish communities abroad,” says Prof. Chaim I. Waxman, a sociologist with the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. “It has also resulted in some Jews being less personally involved in their home community, because they are increasingly away from it.”

This is a paradoxical effect of the digital age – a nearness when far, but a distance even when close. Yes, the Jews were historically known for wandering. Some traveled in search of opportunity, but the majority did so under threat of persecution. Either way, the wanderings of yesteryear were for a much longer term. Up until a half century ago, when one waved farewell from a ship, it was often with little expectation of seeing those left behind again. Once one arrived in a safe community, one’s life was built around its institutions: A Jew who arrived in Pittsburgh or Petah Tivka could see her grandkids grow up a short ride away, and would dedicate her time and money to building communal institutions.

This is certainly not the case today. Thanks to near-ubiquitous digital access, even when we fly off to Thailand, we’re no more than a Skype call away. And if we find ourselves in Pittsburgh, online social networks enable us to connect more quickly with people we share interests with for a short period of time.

And yet these flash connections rarely are as close as those of yesteryear – leaving us with the challenge, as our society becomes defined by the “first digitals’” frequent choice of “sukkot” over permanent dwellings, of adapting our community institutions for highly mobile members.

Our communal institutions – from the State of Israel to our local federations and synagogues – were built for the static life, distinguishing between “locals,” who are dues-paying members, and “visitors,” a smaller group that temporarily accesses services.

But the relative numbers have flipped, leaving us wondering, as the digital age increases our wandering and the relative numbers of “locals” lessens and “visitors” increases, whom are our physically bound institutions meant to serve? What communal institutions are necessary in a world defined by nomadic wandering?

Some organizations have found innovative ways to meet the new demand. Chabad has created a global network of way-stations where wandering Jews can stop for a bite – a gas station for the Jewish body and soul. These nodes are, ideally, financially supported by locals who are inspired by their impact, with strong international backing. But Chabad’s model does not depend on the obligation of those it serves most directly.

As such, with our world moving toward greater mobility, we might reflect in our temporary dwellings as to how we may better build institutions to address the needs of the near-strangers among us. That is, how do we adapt local institutions to the steady flow of visitors who have no intention of staying put? And can we create global institutions that provide services that aren’t bound by physical limitations?

Two directions may serve as a good springboard for further thought. Our tradition maintains the practice of ushpizin, a hosting of strangers parallel to the ethos of hospitality practiced by Bedouin and other nomadic societies. Second, we may learn from the wisdom of the regalim, the thrice-annual pilgrimages that defined the holidays of ancient Israel, and which inspired a sense of unity in a dispersed population through face-to-face contact. Because, no matter the power of social networking and mobile communication technologies, sometimes a text message isn’t enough to prove how much you care.

Ariel Beery is the founder and co-director of the PresenTense Group, which equips social ventures and communities for the information age.

We all know what it’s like to go to networking events: Hi, How Are You? What Do You Do? Can I Have Your Business Card? Etc.

But collecting and distributing business cards that ultimately get slipped into a drawer is not enough anymore; it is important to create meaningful relationships both online and offline that people remember, even after the business card has been filed.

It’s about being part of a community and joining discussions.

Here are 4 tips that apply to social networking in real life and online.

1. Be real, be yourself

Real life: Think about how you want others to act toward you – with genuine interest, not with glances around the room to see if anybody better is coming along. This takes patience and good listening skills. Make sure that the friendly, not-nervous part of you that everyone loves comes out and shines – yes, you can even make jokes. We’re human, and connect to other humans who captivate us with their personality, not with their business suits and stiff business-like manners.

Online: Revisit your profile and be clear about who you are. Relationships are built on trust. Be aware that both colleagues and personal relationships will probably have access to your profile so make sure to be comfortable with whatever appears there. Try to have as much of a personality as is possible online.

2. Help others – don’t be pushy or sales-y

Real life: Make sure to get to know people’s names so you can introduce them to others if you see a good business match. Connecting people, or offering pearls of wisdom based on your conversations will give you instant fans. On the other hand, be sure to never aggressively push your website or product. People want to connect with you, not buy something.

Online: Listen to the questions being asked in your area of expertise. Can you help? If so, get out there and start offering tips, advice, resources, and anything else you’ve got hidden up your sleeve. Being persistent about offering help will bring you trust and friends, while being persistent about sales and products will only damage your reputation.

3. Prepare and research who will be there

Real Life: Try to find out who is attending and who will be on the panels, and look up some information about them. Think about how flattered you are when someone comes up to you and knows something about what you do or has read something you wrote.

Online: Before becoming part of a new network, get to know the site’s culture, rules, and style before jumping in. It’s often a good idea to “lurk” there a bit to see what types of information is being published, and they styles of conversations taking place.

4. Breaking the traditional networking rules

The line between social networking and real life networking has become a bit blurred. Are you supposed to meet people in real life and then connect online – or can it be the other way around too? Start rethinking how first meeting online and then meeting in real life can create an even more meaningful meetup at an event. Don’t stop the networking at the collection of business cards and the standard “follow up” email or phone call. It’s a social event. Feel free to take pictures or videos of people and then post them online so you can continue your relationship and help jog the ol’ memory if you forget what someone looked like.

Written by Miriam Schwab & Rebecca Markowitz of illuminea

illuminea is an internet marketing firm that helps companies create and optimize their web presence with comprehensive blogging and social media strategies.

So we’re getting closer to the launch breakfast, and we’re excited. We’re especially excited that Jeff Pulver will be there leading us in his world-famous social networking. With the creation of his social networking system, Jeff has managed to bring the world of online social media and networking to the offline, three dimensional world where people actually meet and talk to each other.

The great thing about Jeff’s system is that it gives people the opportunity to benefit from the advantages that each type of networking offers. When networking online, we can quickly get an overview of a person’s interests and personality by looking at their profile, blog posts, tag cloud on their blog, friends, etc. However, no matter how much we communicate online, we can never entirely recreate the experience of talking to a person in real life and verbally communicating.

How does this social networking work?

Below is a video in which Jeff explains how his social networking works, but here’s a quick overview:

You get a little plastic bag.

The bag has stuff in it.

It has a pen, two labels, a label sheet, and mini post-it notes.

Now, here’s what you do:

  1. You write your name and personal tagline on one label.
  2. You write your personal tag cloud on the second label. A tag cloud is “a visual depiction of user-generated tags, or simply the word content of a site, used typically to describe the content of web sites. Tags are usually single words and are typically listed alphabetically, and the importance of a tag is shown with font size or color.” (Wikipedia on Tag Clouds). What this means for you is that if you love fishing and do it a lot, you write “fishing” in large text. If you don’t love the color red, you write that in smaller text (or whatever). Etc.
  3. You use the label sheet for real-time tagging of other people. This means that while you’re talking to someone, write something down about that person on a label and stick it on ‘em. For example, you may find out that they are a blogger, photographer, Dad, or just plain amazing. Write it on a label, and stick it.
  4. All that’s left are the post-it notes. These are for placing on everyone’s “walls.” I actually don’t quite get this part, since things that are written on people’s walls are things that make sense to actually say with your mouth. But anyways, that’s what it’s for.

The goal? As Jeff says, it’s to break down all the other walls around you. Nice.

Here’s the video. We’ll be testing you:

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