Friday, October 1, 2010

No RT’s or Conversation? Look at Your Content

A Pocoyo Softie
Yesterday’s Twitterstream had scads of RTs of a story on how 71% of all Tweets show no reaction – no reply or RT. Some are speculating that this means that what early detractors were saying about Twitter is true; it’s mostly people posting about their favourite sandwiches.

Needless to say, I don’t agree. What I think is that there’s more people who are either seeing the value in social media or what they think could be value and with the larger population, comes a larger amount of noise.


When I first joined Twitter (January 2008), it was less frenetic. People like @ChrisBrogan and @pamslim were able to interact more fully with others. Now, although I continue to follow them for the value of their observations, I never tweet to them anymore because I’m sure that my tiny voice would be drowned in the deluge of their follower twitterstream. Yes, it’s somewhat harder work than it was to find the value amongst the hucksters, marketing and sales asshats and those who want to become a celebrity-on-the-cheap. But it’s still possible.

Yes and No

Earlier this year, some of us on Twitter kicked around the word “authenticity” in a conversation. Some were of the opinion that it had lost its meaning because it had been used so much and often by people who didn’t seem to realize their use of the term was ironic. (Although, one could argue that inauthentic people are authentic when they adhere to an inauthentic course… sorry; I’m an INTP and we’re fascinated by stuff like this.) Anyway, there’s a way to avoid a lot of the inauthentic and just plain noise – it’s called unfollow or maybe, don't-follow-in-the-first-place.

It’s not hard these days to get a lot of numbers following you if you don’t care who they are. Or if you’re a celebrity like @StephenFry (who followed everyone back out of politeness until he got to around 50K "friends"). And if you’ve got a small nonprofit, it may seem that numbers are important – after all, you are trying to get the word out about your mission to as many people as will listen, right? Yes. And no.

What’s the point of talking about your mission if 71% of what you say is going to be ignored? My answer is twofold:
  • Think about what goal you’re trying to accomplish by participating on Twitter
  • Think about the value of what you’re tweeting

Goal Setting

You’re not looking for numbers, you’re looking for engagement. You’re looking for a way to tell people about your work, how it differs from similar work being done elsewhere, how it is similar, how you are doing, what challenges you are facing, who you serve, information and help from others about how to do what you're doing better. It’s important that you keep your eye on the goal – strategic or tactical – and write your posts around it. Too many #nonprofit tweets I see these days are just a link to a blog post or an RT of someone else’s link to a blog post. And I guarantee that I ignore more than 71% of these tweets.


Is your small nonprofit all you tweet about? Then, even if your mission is a great one, your tweets are indistinguishable from the spam sent out by @genericsexygirlpic about how debt counseling (link here) saved her miserable life. And we’re back to authenticity. You have to be you in your posts as well as your nonprofit. People can’t really know a mission or an agency, can’t really like it as they can another person. You can put a face on what you are doing and give them that person. When you engage in conversation with other non-profiters, offer information to others, respond with empathy to the occasional sadness or frustration tweeted, take advice, offer up your own experience, you are adding value to your tweetstream.

Some ideas for value:
  • Don’t just give a link without a comment or something like “cool link.” Give a reason why someone might want to go there.
  • Use hashtags (#) so people who search on a keyword can find you easier
  • Jump into conversations – these people asked to be followed or to follow, so the conversation is public; you can join in without being asked
  • Be on the lookout for things that relate to what you tweet about, then comment and RT; do a hashtag search on keywords relating to your area like #cancer or #womensrights
  • Start/continue conversations with people by asking relevant questions. “Yes” or “Exactly” don’t keep a conversation going
  • Follow the people or organizations that add value to the stream
  • Don’t follow back people just because they followed you. Some people still think that it’s only polite to follow everyone who follows you, but if I did, I would be following a lot of spammers and people who couldn’t care less about the things I care about and life is too short for that stuff. I would also be following a lot of nice people whose cumulative tweets might keep me from catching the ones I really want to see

    Note that if you’ve got a personal Twitter account, separate from your nonprofit’s account, the same things apply, except that if you like a car repair person and don’t mind that 80% of their tweets are about car repair, then go ahead and follow them back.

My Conclusion

Maybe it’s true that 71% of the tweets released into the stream are not worth commenting on or RT’ing, but maybe that’s because they say little about who tweeted them or what they care about and why it should matter.

More info:
A good post on social media credibility from Brass Tack Thinking
A good read on measuring influencers in social media from The Social Customer


Anonymous said...

Good thoughts and tips. I'm glad I read this as I am fairly new to Twitter after being reluctant for a couple of years (@eduClaytion). I'm enjoying some parts and annoyed by others. This post explains a lot of what I wondered about.

Paul Cunningham said...

This isnt just good advice, its also well written. From someone who is very new to twitter I would like to say thank you

Robyn McIntyre said...

@educlaytion, and @Paul_Cunningham, thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you found the information useful. Getting the "hang" of Twitter can be problematic at first because its use is up to you, so don't get discouraged if it doesn't seem to have value at first. It took me a good six months to figure out how it could fit into my life and I've been happy with it ever since!