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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    Annie said...

    Oooh, I love that Humane Society sidebar idea! Thanks for posting this - very good points.

    Anonymous said...

    It is certainly interesting for me to read this post. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

    Truly yours

    Mazarine said...

    Hi Robin.

    The sidebar note is an important one. Time after time I've seen charity twitter feeds that just use a wallpaper background. The ones that fully use the sidebar are the ones that stand out as most professional, to me. For example, MercyCorps.

    Another use for twitter that Sarah Silverman takes full advantage of is Twitpic. I wish more nonprofits would use this because it's a good place to get donors to see exactly how you're helping, if they're in a hurry and just want to browse through your pictures.

    Robyn McIntyre said...

    Good point, Mazarine. A lot of times a picture can really get your nonprofit mission across much better than any amount of words.

    Anonymous said...

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