Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tweet or Twit - Your Small Nonprofit's Twitter Profile (Part 2)

So, we're talking about your small nonprofit's Twitter Profile. And we're using the Twitter profile of the Humane Society of the United States as our example. In last week's post, we touched on your Avatar and the sidebar space available to you.

 This week, we talk about your:

* Bio
* Background


Your bio will appear below the address for your website. Ideally, it should be a concise, clear description of your mission. You have a very limited amount of space and if you can't find a way to condense what your small nonprofit hopes to achieve into this space, then you probably need to spend some time working on that. For heaven's sake, don't just start writing whatever comes to mind. Think. Think hard about it.

For your small and probably not-well-known agency, this is going to be one of the first things a potential follower will see about you. You want to make an impression - one that will resonate and stick with them, one that will help them decide to follow you and retweet some of your posts. Don't assume that your Mission Statement is going to be enough. The statement for one of my last employers was, "To lead the way in advancing the arts in our community." It does say what the agency does, but I doubt if anyone could get warm fuzzies from it. What does our example - the HSUS - bio say?
Official Twitter feed of the Humane Society of the United States. We're celebrating animals and confronting cruelty...all day, every day!

Okay, I would probably have left off the first sentence or moved it to the end of the paragraph. When you look at the sidebar it seems pretty obvious that it's the official feed (accept no substitutes), though I don't think it dilutes things too much if the "official" statement is moved to the end. However, it should be clear that the part that will resonate with the reader is the part about celebrating animals and confronting cruelty...all day, every day! You are part of your small nonprofit because their mission means something to you; use the bio to highlight the meaning.

A Word About SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

You may hear that your bio space is a good spot for putting in all the tags someone might search for when looking for a nonprofit to follow. For example, a rideshare service might put "rideshare, carpool, carbon offset, etc." in order to come up higher in search results for people looking for Twitter profiles with an emphasis on ridesharing. This might work if you were a small business and not a small nonprofit. You won't get anyone interested in your mission by pelting them with tags.


The colours and typefaces you use are your choice and may be dictated in part by any approved graphic identity programs you have. But a couple of things will still apply.

Less is More

The background should not be the first thing that catches their attention. Keep it as clean and simple as you can. Give people too many things to look at and they won't look at anything. And don't point out that my profile page looks like a psychedelic hiccup - I am not a small nonprofit. Using our example, do you think it would hurt or help the HSUS profile if the background was full of dog and cat pictures or even one picture repeated for pattern? Would the sidebar stand out or disappear? Even more important, would the picture of the woman with the dog be hurt or helped?

Another area where I recommend getting help if you need it. Whether you use a template or create your background from scratch, be sure to test the way it looks in a few different resolutions and browsers. You can change your desktop or laptop's resolution to view them or use tools built into Dreamweaver or other page builders or use an online tool. If you haven't the faintest idea what I'm talking about, then you probably need help. The general idea is that, not all computer screens are viewed alike. I like small type and small icons, but a friend with a sight problem likes everything enlarged. What she sees when she looks at your profile and what I see may be two very different things.

Wrap Up
Your Twitter profile isn't just an opportunity for potential followers to learn about you, it's a way to connect with potential followers and bring them into your community. Make sure that your profile is not only informative, but inviting.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tweet or Twit - Your Small Nonprofit's Twitter Profile (Part 1)

By now, you all should know that Twitter is not for everyone. Just as Facebook isn’t, just as MySpace isn’t, just as Google Wave… yadda yadda. They’re all social media tools and they’re all right and all wrong depending on who’s using them and what the desired outcome is.

If you’ve decided to use Twitter, though, you need to pay attention to your public face in Twitterville – your profile. For my example, I’ll be using the high profile of the Humane Society of the US (@HSUS).

Note: click on any of the pics to enlarge them.

In this post and next week’s, I’ll be talking about four areas of this profile:

* Avatar
* Sidebar
* Bio
* Background

    This is your face in Twitterville. It’s what everyone sees next to any updates you make. If you use your Twitter account to log in to make comments in other places, it’s what people reading those comments will see. Therefore, it ought to say something about your brand, your mission, you. Tall order for a small picture, yes.

    As you can see, HSUS uses their logo, which doesn’t quite fit in the allowable space. It’s still recognizable, if you know what you’re looking at, but it’s not great. This probably caused some consternation, but a big nonprofit can’t change logos on a whim and they probably weren’t sure they were going to stick with Twitter, so they just went with it. Your small nonprofit may find  itself in the same boat. Logos do get redesigned from time to time, so remember one of the things that helps make a great logo is that it scales in size up and down without losing its clarity and individuality.

    In Twitterville, most folks prefer a face in an avatar:

    The more the face fills the frame, the better. And some kind of expression other than a here’s-my-high-school-yearbook-face smile is very good. Makes us Tweeters feel we know who’s talking to us. Be careful about adding embellishments like Twibbons and stuff. I like to support causes, too, but generally do so by retweeting or highlighting someone’s info. Embellishments on an avatar will detract from your face and with your avatar already so small, anything additional will probably end up an indistinguishable blob of color. Sure, you can click on it and see an enlargement, but few people will bother with that.

    This is where a lot of profiles are left wanting. There’s space available to elaborate on your mission, you ought to use it. In the case of the HSUS, they’re pretty well known and their bio underlines the mission, so they chose to use the sidebar space to put a human face on their Twitter conversationalists. Epic win.

    As I mentioned, Tweeters prefer a face in the avatar, but HSUS is using their logo, so in their sidebar space they’ve given us not only a great pic of their primary Tweeter but let us know that they occasionally have guest Tweeters and who they are and what they look like. This not only puts a face on the profile, but emphasizes that their mission is embraced by others as well. We understand more about how the nonprofit works and who is involved.  This causes us to feel a little bit more invested.

    Next week, the post will be about the bio and the profile’s background.

    Twitter thought for the week: If I scan your tweet stream for a couple of pages, and there are no replies, I’m going to assume that you are more about talking at me than talking with me. If I don’t feel that you’ll hear my thoughts and feelings about your mission and your small nonprofit – give me a chance to engage – then how can you expect me to care?

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