I was delighted if rather surprised to see today that I am in a new list of top 30 charity CEOs on social media. Only 2 years ago I was a self-avowed sceptic about social media, dismissive of LinkedIn, averse to Facebook (still am) and wary of Twitter. I reluctantly began tweeting under the National Voices @NVTweeting account in January 2012, only after gentle if irresistible encouragement from our communications lead Jules Acton. Within 5 days I was chafing at the constraints of an organisational account and began tweeting as myself.
I have now become rather evangelical about Twitter. It is a superb medium to champion causes and ideas and it could have been designed for the third sector. Charity folks who are not yet on Twitter should seriously think about taking the plunge.
Twitter is not what I first thought it was. I thought it was all about self (or organisational) promotion. Of course you want to get your messages across and it’s lovely to build up a followship but if you are only in broadcast mode you are missing the point. The real value and joy of Twitter lies in learning, discovering, sharing, connecting and – for me at least – teasing. Recently I found myself emailing some tips to a Twitter-virgin in one of National Voices’ member organisations. It was Jules’ idea (she is a very persuasive lady) to turn that email into a blog. So here are my top 10 tweeting tips, an amalgam of wisdom gleaned from others and what I have found from my own experience.
- Be yourself. Learn to let go and not obsess about the distinction between your “workplace” you and the “real” you.
- Put up a photo and a well-chosen biography. You are simply less engaging without them.
- Follow people and organisations you like, respect or find interesting (including those you disagree with). Some will follow you back but it doesn’t matter if they don’t.
- Share interesting stuff, for example by retweeting tweets from the interesting people you follow and tweeting links to interesting articles and blogs. Tweeting from events using the hashtag is a great way to interest your followers and meet new people.
- Dare to be more than bland. Go on, be a bit controversial! Or a bit funny. But...
- Try to be kind. Balance light and dark. Relentless negativity is wearing - for you and everyone else. Abuse and trolling are beyond the pale.
- Converse. The exchange can be fun –if sometimes frustrating within the limits of 140 characters. Never let a conversation turn into an argument. Twitchats, using the hashtag, can also be fun and a way of meeting new people.
- Be prepared to challenge, question and where necessary take people to task (politely of course). As a champion of people who use services, I see it as an important part of my role to question unexamined assumptions, mindsets and orthodoxies. Twitter helps.
- Don’t drink and tweet.
- Don’t tweet in bed. I stopped doing this when my wife started to describe herself as a “twitter widow”. It is, I now realise, very bad form. There is more to life than Twitter.