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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