Do you tweet out on a limb?


Do you work for a charity? Do you use Twitter?

I’ll put the question I posed in the title another way:

Do you ‘tweet’ ‘under the radar’… or seek management buy-in before you start?

This is one of the questions we’ll be asking on Thursday (the 24th), when it will be the turn of my friends at Breast Cancer Care to host the fourth NFPtweetup.

When the very first nfptweetup was held in November 2008, you could pretty much squeeze everyone who ticked both the ‘charity’, and ‘Twitter’ boxes into the cosy upstairs room in the Coach and Horses in London’s Soho.

Less than one year later, and you are too many to mention. Many UK charities (or at least many individuals within charities) have adopted Twitter and like me have no doubt been surprised, confounded, and delighted in equal measure.

There are many great examples of Twitter success; I signposted a few good examples in a short and sweet piece I wrote for London Twestival earlier this month. Beth has done better elsewhere.

On Thursday I’ve agreed to facilitate a group break-out session around convincing colleagues of Twitter’s value?

Tweeting charity CEO, Gary Williams of Sound Seekers is in no doubt. He told me (in less than 140 characters)…

[It] has to be about organisational goals. Specifically, it has to be about building a richer conversation with stakeholders, potential supporters.

So, there you have it.

But what if you’re not lucky enough to have someone like Gary as your CEO and want to get internal buy-in? Should you go under the radar of management in order to first build a compelling and coherent business case (rather than a vaguely-defined idea) and make your ‘apology’ afterwards? Or do you prepare a 20-page strategy document – as Neil Williams did to convince civil service colleagues of the value of embracing Twitter. (Neil’s PDF template is well worth downloading by the way).

Now for me personally Twitter is the best thing since sliced bread (with the possible exception of Flickr and meeting my wife). It’s of enormous value to me. I’m with Danah, who I think described Twitter as “a social filter, flushing good stuff to me.” That’s it right there.

Plan or improvise?

But what problem does Twitter solve if you are a charity? And how do you capture the value from the relentless flow from people who would like to connect with you. It’s certainly more than a numbers game. As Joanne Jacobs points out:

Social media influence is best measured by network effects analysis, not popularity.

Takes a bit of time and effort then.

agileSo do you plan or improvise? Can you plan *too much*? Arguably, you cannot nail down a strategy in an environment of such accelerating turbulence. You have to be ready to jump on opportunities (if you’ve left some slack in your budget). Maybe just trust your instinct and use some basic principles as a guide instead.

If you do run up against the buffers trying to convince ‘non-believers’ in your organisation to experiment with Twitter, we can all learn from Katya Andresen’s wise list of tactics to employ (written with social media in mind, not just Twitter)…

  1. Change the subject:  If you’re having a debate over the value of social media [or Twitter], you’re having the wrong discussion. The discussion should be about your organisation’s goals – with web 2.0 being the means, not the end (see #2).
  2. Make it about what your boss already wants: Don’t position your web 2.0 idea as a social media initiative; frame it as your initiative to support your boss’s goals, in your boss’s language.
  3. Make it about the audience: A good way to depersonalise the web 2.0 debate is to make it about your target audience’s preferences rather than a philosophical tug of war between you and said boss.
  4. Sign your boss up to listen: Set up Google Alerts and TweetBeep for your boss, so she or he can see that there are already many discussions about your organisation going on online.
  5. Set some ground rules:  Set a social media policy for your organisation, so it’s clear how to respond to what you’re hearing – and what types of initiatives have internal support.
  6. Start clear and small: If you’re going to start an initiative, make it a small one with clear goals so you know how to measure success.
  7. Report, report, report: Share every little bit of progress and give your boss credit for it!

A pretty good list – even if I do balk a little at kowtowing to “your boss” quite so much! I’m hoping we can come up with our own list on Thursday.

I’ll give Neil Williams almost the last word on this. Neil says one of the benefits of having the [20-page] document in his armoury is

To get buy-in, explain Twitter’s importance to non-believers and the uninitiated, and face down accusations of bandwagon-jumping.

After all, microblogging is a low-barrier to entry, low-risk and low-resource channel relative to other corporate communications overheads like a blog or printed newsletter. And the pioneers in corporate use of Twitter by central government… all started as low-profile experiments and grew organically into what they are today.

Anyway, if you’ve registered for Thursday’s event – I’ll see you there. If you haven’t (and it’s already fully booked), you can follow the proceedings online.

Once again, the event is being sponsored by JustGiving (see Jonathan Waddingham’s summary of the nfptweetup story to date) and Beautiful World (who’s co-founder, Rachel Beer came up with the whole idea in the first place).

You had better believe it when I say of all the events I attend regularly… this is my favourite. I get a chance to spend some face-to-face time with some very good ‘online’ friends.

Thanks to Brian Kopp for the photo (licensed under Creative Commons) and to Tony Hsieh for the insight.
This entry was posted in charities and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Do you tweet out on a limb?

  1. Pingback: JustGiving for charities: Twitter tools & the fourth NFPTweetup: part 2

  2. Pingback: Steve Bridger › Twitter: this time it’s personal

  3. Pingback: nfptweetup » Twitter: this time it’s personal

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *