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Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project Shares Social Media Tips

I love social media – I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Chime.In, and more. I’m learning Tumblr and Instagram. And I use all of these tools for the non-profit project I coordinate, the The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project. The biggest challenges I have are finding enough time to use them well and keeping up with the changes in technology.

As a social media strategist, I can tell you that the most important things for any non-profit are to make the time to use social media well and to stay abreast of the technology.


Here’s my list of the Top Ten Twitter Things your organization can do to maximize the time you do have to use Twitter.

  1. Be Consistent – maybe you tweet once a day, maybe three times a week. The important thing is that you set a schedule you can maintain and you keep up with it so your followers will expect to see your tweets on a regular basis. Posting 10 rapid tweets and retweets “every so often” is not effective.
  1. Provide Information – you have knowledge and information to share. People are on Twitter looking for those things – many people use Twitter as a news source or a mini-search engine. Don’t limit yourself to listing events and asking for donations. Tell your story. Share the facts (with a cite.) Ask a question.
  1. Be Social – If you have a Twitter account, you should be monitoring it to see if people “@” you or retweet you. It is a missed opportunity if you don’t take a few moments to engage that person – say “Thanks for the RT” or ask them a follow up question. Follow people who RT you. It’s an investment and you can bet that they will appreciate it and continue to RT you.
  1. Create Content – Using Twitter to Faceboook or Facebook to Twitter seems like a timesaver, but its dangerous. Sending a Facebook link to Twitter means anyone who does not use Facebook is automatically not going to be able to read your whole tweet, see your picture or learn about your event. Posting a 140 character status update to Facebook is simply not very engaging. Your best bet is to use an app called “Selective Tweets” that uses a hashtag to determine which tweets go to Facebook and to post to the social media sites separately. Yes, its more work but with third party programs like Hootsuite, you can still do this pretty quickly (free version available).
  1. Learn to Love Lists – Are you familiar with the “list” tools Twitter? It is a great way to organize the accounts you follow by category and you can even add someone to a list without following them. I have several lists. A few examples:
  • Environmental Groups
  • Hunger and Poverty Groups
  • Pgh NonProfits
  • Pgh and PA Media Tweeps

I make the list public so anyone can follow them as well. This really helps me stay in touch with our collaborators and find current content to share with our followers.  I use private lists to make sure I don’t miss tweets from funders, partners and others.

  1. Reuse Retweet – The beauty of twitter is that you can use your social media time to promote your partners, collaborators, funders, sponsors and more with just a few keystrokes. Your social media has value – show that by taking time to RT high value tweets. Examples include breaking news, infographics and data, events you plan to attend/sponsor/exhibit, and even the occasional “hello” tweet.

When we plan to attend an event, I make sure to keep an eye on the organizer’s twitter account and RT their event info with a little extra. For example:

We’ll be there! RT @XYZorg: Getting ready for our Environmental Festival this Sat, 10 AM atPointState Park#green

Rather than create my own tweet, this gets the same information to my followers, pleases the event organizers and usually ends up being RTd at least once. Why “re”create the wheel when you can “reuse” an existing tweet?

Bonus – consider adding social media to your sponsorship packages.

  1. Be Inclusive – Sending a #FollowFriday to the same 5 or 8 accounts week after week loses its impact. If new people aren’t on your radar to acknowledge, adjust your radar. This is a great way to thank people who RT you – and because #FF are often RTd … you kill several birds with one tweet. Pun intended. It is also a good chance to expand your follower base – check out the #FF or other sharing tweets from people you like.
  1. Spell Strategic – Be mindful that someone may RT you and consider leaving a little “wiggle” room for them b/c of the extra characters the “RT @XYZorg” will take up.
  1. Scheduling Software – software such a Hootsuite or BufferApp allow you to schedule tweets a week ahead of time. This is a great way to invest an hour and line up your tweets that are not time sensitive. I use software that tweets every 2-3 hours/7days a week. I spend an hour every other day or so lining up the tweets for all of my accounts.  You can of course post something timely should the need arise. I also use a scheduling software to automatically share blog posts via Twitter.
    • Make a commitment to RT other Pgh organizations in your field. We are all in this together. I try to make every 4th tweet about a Pgh topic. Sometimes it is an event, sometimes it is just a random mention. And when I get a “thank you” that account rises higher on my list of folks to RT.
    • Make the time. If you opened the Twitter account and don’t use it, its like leaving last year’s event calendar on your website. People notice. Some organizations prefer to leave Twitter altogether and “dig deep” on Facebook or other social media platforms – that’s a viable strategy, but just doing nothing or posting once in awhile is not good for your reputation.
    • Consider investing in someone to dedicate to social media. Perhaps you can’t fund a PT social media position. Contract with someone on an hourly rate to “do” your social media using your social plan (you have one of those right?) and with monitoring for content of course.

Who will join me in making a commitment to retweet other Pittsburgh regional organizations?

Sue Kerr is the founder of The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project. She can be found on Twitter @Tote4Pgh.

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