September 26, 2011

8 nonprofit Twitter superstars

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Twitter superstar
Photo by Karola Riegler Photography on Flickr

Experiment with the approaches below to see which works best for you

Target audience:Nonprofits, NGOs, cause organizations, social enterprises, brands, bloggers, social media managers.

This is the first in our new series of articles on how nonprofits can get the most out of Twitter.

By Kyria Abrahams
Socialbrite staff

kyria-abrahamsWe’re kicking off our new series on how nonprofits can make the best use of Twitter with a roundup of organizations that showcase a strong voice in the community. Below are eight popular nonprofits on Twitter today as well as an overview of their varying styles and strategies.

These organizations are successfully using the following approaches. They:

twitter-essentials

  • Support other nonprofit Twitter users with Follow Friday.
  • Retweet others.
  • Quote well-known and well-respected voices.
  • Write concise “teaser-style” tweets that link back to their main website.
  • Make ample use of hashtags or create their own.
  • Ask questions that engage their followers.
  • Use human interest stories.
  • Respond to tweets that mention their organization.

charity: water

1With 1.3 million followers, charity: water is the first Twitter result when using the search term “nonprofit.” The organization’s focus is clear and so are their tweets, many of which focus on celebrating individual supporters, small donors and partners. Tweets feature a compelling teaser, which links back to their website.

Sample Tweet from Charity Water

The Gates Foundation

2The Gates Foundation makes ample use of hashtags and actively participates in “Follow Friday” (hashtag: #FF), a practice which builds a sense of community around their cause and can be seen as a type of online partnering. They utilize a “Photo of the Day” that links back to their site, a tactic which is also used by Charity Water. If anyone has ideas on properly using Twitter, it’s probably Bill Gates.

Sample Tweet for Gates Foundation

The Humane Society

3The Humane Society originated the popular hashtag #FelineFriday, which encourages people to post photos of their cats. The tag is so popular that I sent them a tweet asking if they had come up with the concept. They replied to me within two days, which means that they’ve also got a crack team checking on all their @replies — another big plus!

 Sample Tweet from Humane Society

Free Arts

4With chapters in Minnesota and New York, Free Arts uses Twitter to share inspirational quotes and links to interesting articles related to their cause. Quotes work well on Twitter because people are more apt to retweet inspirational quotes than another link to your blog. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about having writer’s block.

Sample Tweet for Free Arts MN

Free Arts

5St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital gracefully retweeted Cindy Crawford after she wrote about spending the day at their facility. Understated and natural retweeting — sometimes pre-scheduled — is preferable to having a page littered with unanswered posts begging to be retweeted by celebrities who will probably just ignore you anyway.

Sample Tweet for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Direct Relief

6Direct Reliefmakes good use of newsworthy hashtags like #healthcare and does a fair amount of retweeting others.

Sample Tweet from Direct Relief

Room to Read

7We like Room to Read for asking interactive questions on hot topics people might be searching for. Asking simple, personalized questions offers an opportunity for users to @reply to you when they otherwise may be disinclined to.

Sample Tweet for Room to Read

Operation Smile

8Operation Smile updates readers with human interest stories of specific children they’ve helped, and links to well-produced videos highlighting their mission. Like many others, they also use a “Pic of the Day.”

Sample Tweet for Operation Smile

You may wish to experiment with each of these different approaches and see which works best for you. Eventually, you’ll find your own unique Twitter style. Remember that you want to be seen as an educational, entertaining destination and not as a marketing tool. Don’t be afraid to keep the reigns a little lose, have some fun and build community. Then get tweeting!

Stay tuned for more best practices for nonprofits on Twitter in this ongoing series!Kyria Abrahams is the author of “I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed – Tales From A Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing.” She has worked in the field of Web design and content creation for the past 10 years.

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  • Carie Lewis

    Thanks for including us (@HumaneSociety) in this writeup! We’ve found great success in creating our own “memes” on Twitter. Check out #muttmonday too :)

    • Cool, thanks so much for sharing Carie. Glad that we could include you in the roundup.

    • Cool, thanks so much for sharing Carie. Glad that we could include you in the roundup.

    • Cool, thanks so much for sharing Carie. Glad that we could include you in the roundup.

    • Kyria Abrahams

      You’re welcome. As the owner of a rescue cat, I love the work you do on all levels!

    • Kyria Abrahams

      You’re welcome. As the owner of a rescue cat, I love the work you do on all levels!

  • Mozart

    Nice post. Thanks for letting us know about changemakers on Twitter. We are definitely taking notes.

  • Mozart

    Nice post. Thanks for letting us know about changemakers on Twitter. We are definitely taking notes.

    • Great to hear that this was helpful to you. Let us know if you come across any other standout nonprofits on Twitter.

    • Great to hear that this was helpful to you. Let us know if you come across any other standout nonprofits on Twitter.

  • Great post. Not sure if you saw this already but your listing of number 5 should read StJude’s, not Free Arts (that was number 4.) Anyway, I found this useful for my upcoming presentation on Nonprofit Tweeting, so thanks!

  • Great post. Not sure if you saw this already but your listing of number 5 should read StJude’s, not Free Arts (that was number 4.) Anyway, I found this useful for my upcoming presentation on Nonprofit Tweeting, so thanks!

    • Kyria Abrahams

      Whoops, thanks for pointing that out!

    • Kyria Abrahams

      Whoops, thanks for pointing that out!