The shortened URL I'm using for this post is http://is.gd/8kufI
I wrote this a year (or two?) ago for colleagues in a charity who were new to Twitter - I realise that as time has marched along these recommendations will be less 'cutting edge' useful, but they might still be helpful to some, hence I've posted ( an amended version of) them here.
1. It's been suggested that charities might want to reserve for themselves the relevant name of their charity on Twitter and on other social media (eg getting a fan page on Facebook). Seems like a good idea – I'd recommend using as few letters as possible for the Twitter channel, while still being understandable, as this will allow you more of the remaining characters in the 140-char tweets.
Also - add a "follow us on Twitter" to your website as people will visit your site and that might be the first they hear about your twitter feed; it also clarifies that it's your official twitter feed.
2. A hashtag (# before a keyword) adds a bit of focus to a word, and people can set up searches to follow instances of said word. For example I use #diabetes* if I write about something that I specifically want to be seen by people interested in that topic.
* people following the word 'diabetes' will see it whether or not I put the # symbol in front of it – the advantage of the # is for aggregator services that can collect and store all instances of a hashtag (this is useful in the setting of a conference where everyone uses the same hashtag and all the tweets can be collected). It's also useful for anyone using Tweetdeck which lets you click on the hashtag and create a column to follow it.
Probably hashtags will eventually become redundant but I've erred on the side of using them rather than not using them.
3. Find like-minded people using http://search.twitter.com/ and follow them. Like-minded might include people who have the particular medical condition your charity is funding research in, but will also include doctors and nurses (whether or not they are specifically talking about your condition) as these people are likely to want to know about your publications for example. Seek out people from your many audiences to follow and interact with.
4. Google #nfptweetup - it means not for profit meet-up of people in the third sector using Twitter. There are meetings every now and again where people share "best practice" and ideas.
5. Ask your colleagues to append something like
"Follow Charity UK 's news feed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CharityUK
to the end of their email messages because this information will then be being sent to a wide range of people.
6. It's OK (particularly initially) to post in a 'broadcast' mode – ie just saying things about who your charity is and where people can find information. You might also use one of the systems that will post an automated tweet for you whenever a new story is added to your website. After a while though, it's more helpful to be a bit interactive and engage with people, answering questions, posing questions etc.
There's no harm in writing "please RT" for "please retweet" at the end of occasional tweets and then people can do a little bit of promotion for you. People following me are interested in things relating to diabetes, librarianship and science communication so I'd be likely to RT the things people post about those, as it would be of interest to them.
7. Don't forget it takes time to build up a presence, and to 'get' what Twitter is all about. You can use it to highlight news and include a signposting link where people can read more, to conduct a conversation, to get feedback, to drum up support for a campaign etc.
If you have a presence on other social sites (like Facebook) mention your twitter feed there (ie 'cross fertilise!).
8. It's possible that a number of people in your potential readership have not come across Twitter yet so maybe a short page on your website highlighting how to get a Twitter account and follow your feed isn't a bad idea. You don't really need to write anything complicated and can probably get most of it from Twitter's help pages.
9. You can also sign up to a monitoring service, like Google Alerts or SocialOomph (formerly Tweetlater) which will send you periodic emails containing tweets that reference the keyword(s) you're interested in.
- Athens passwords available for some voluntary sector organisations (10 September 2010)
- Healthy journalism: challenges and solutions - seminar from Patient Information Forum, at Wellcome Trust (25 April 2010)
- Curated posts: liveblogging science conferences - my thoughts on tweeting medical research charity conferences (16 February 2010)
- Following conference hashtag tweets in real time and saving them for later (3 January 2010)