@NonprofitOrgs¬†follows more than 120,000 nonprofits, nonprofit staff and nonprofit service providers. Now, of course it’s humanly impossible to follow the tweets of that many Twitter accounts, so to make the chaos manageable I organize my favorite nonprofits and those whose tweets consistently stand out from the rest into Twitter Lists. However, at least 10 times a day I go to my “Home” view and scan through hundreds of tweets hoping to find new nonprofits to retweet or list, but the honest truth is that the majority of tweets (from those 120,000+ nonprofits) in my “Home” view are un-retweetable. They are loaded with marketing pitches and often have punctuation and grammar errors, messy formatting, and one too many hashtags. These are the characteristics of tweets that I know my followers have no interest in seeing me retweet. I know because I study which tweets get retweeted – and which don’t.

If your nonprofit’s tweets never get retweeted, that is the Twitterverse’s way of telling you that your tweets need improvement and that it’s time to experiment with posting different content. I want you to ask yourself before every tweet you’re considering posting: Will my followers find this interesting? Does this tweet speak to our mission and programs? Does it inspire and evoke a powerful emotion? If not, then in most cases, I’d say don’t post it. Since nonprofits should only be posting 4 tweets and 4 retweets maximum per day spread out throughout the day, don’t waste them. Make them smart. Make them useful. Make them inspiring. Translation: Please stop posting a steady stream of “Thanks for the RTs!” and “Thanks for the mention!” and “Did you know we’re also on Facebook?” :)

Now, if you haven’t yet come to understand why getting retweeted is so important, it is simply this: If you want your community to grow on Twitter beyond those that followed you from a link on your website, blog or e-newsletter, your goal should be to get retweeted so your avatar and your content gets forwarded to Twitterers outside of your small corner of the Twitterverse. Some of those Twitterers who are exposed to your avatar and your smart, useful and inspiring content for the first time will then be compelled to “Follow” you. After that, your job is then continue to post tweets that keep them interested and following you. The good news is that the types of tweets that get retweeted also make for a good overall Twitter strategy. That said, be sure to study the other tweets posted by the nonprofits below. You see that these five tweets by far got the most retweets:

1) Powerful stats that speak to your mission and programs.
Rainforest Alliance :: @
RnfrstAlliance
30,350 Followers :: 54 Retweets

 

2) Quotes that inspire social good.
Operation Smile :: @OperationSmile
37, 534 Followers :: 186 Retweets

 

3) Well-formatted, easy to read factual tweets.
Save Pell Coalition :: @SavePell
832 Followers :: 17 Retweets

 

4) Position statements spoken with clarity and conviction.
Mobile Cause :: @MobileCause
1,741 Followers :: 14 Retweets

 

5) Tweets that tap into the #BreakingNews cycle.
Amnesty International :: @Amnesty
495,250 Followers :: 98 Retweets

The five types of tweets listed above only scratch the surface of retweet best practices. Whether others retweet your tweets in the old school style or new school has a huge impact on the power of getting retweeted – as does your decision to use Bit.ly or Ow.ly, colons or periods before links (or none at all), and whether you attach an image or not – and this is knowledge only gained through months of experimentation and study, or by taking my webinar on Twitter and Twitter Apps for Nonprofits. :)

Finally, one last point – there is a time and place for marketing pitches on Twitter. Unfortunately, many nonprofits tend to think that is multiple times daily (some even every hour on the hour), but that only results in lot of ¬†Twitter clutter and in most cases a colossal waste of time for your nonprofit. Marketing on Twitter should err on the side of subtly and for most nonprofit Twitterers that’s an understanding and skill that can take months or even years to realize and master. Experiment with the five types of tweets above for a month or so and I guarantee you’ll notice a difference in your RT and CTR (click-though rate) numbers – and likely gain some new followers in the process as well.

Related Links:
Four Reasons Why Your Nonprofit Should Follow More on Twitter
Webinar: How Nonprofits Can Successfully Use Twitter and Twitter Apps