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 Рthis 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)!