It’s impossible to apply Twitter best practices across all segments of the nonprofit sector because of the wide variety of causes and follower counts, but scientific analysis of Twitter clearly indicate that there is right way and a wrong way to use Twitter. The challenge is for nonprofits to learn from and apply the scientific data to their Twitter strategy. If you study Twitter and grow to enjoy using it, then your time invested will eventually pay off through increased brand recognition, referral traffic, new donors, volunteers, and event attendees.
1. Give your followers useful, interesting, retweetable content.
A highly retweeted tweet posted by @Oxfam, this tweet taps into the power of statistics, the popular issue of income inequality, and includes a unique visual that helps the tweet stand out from the clutter. By prioritizing content related to their cause, @Oxfam is consistently retweeted, thus promoted by their followers. A nonprofit that prioritizes getting retweeted by sharing unique, interesting content is much more successful on Twitter than those overloading their account with fundraising asks and self-promotional tweets.
2. Write tweets in clear, concise language – no abbreviations and always use proper punctuation.
Over the last 6 years, @NonprofitOrgs has tweeted more than 12,000 tweets and over that time two best practices have revealed themselves and consistently proven themselves to be true. First, tweets that are written in complete sentences without abbreviations and therefore easy to read are retweeted much more often. Second, tweets that end in either a period or a colon before the link are also retweeted more often and thus tend to have higher click-through rates. A messy, overloaded tweet just isn’t worth tweeting. Take the time to format tweets properly.
3. Curate good content through retweets.
@OnGood is an online fundraising portal for NGOs worldwide. Rather than only tweeting about its services, @OnGood curates good content tweeted by other NGOs by retweeting their tweets. This strategy adds variety to their feed, engages their followers, builds credibility with the NGO sector, and eliminates the risk of appearing to over-market their services by only tweeting about themselves. Only a tiny portion of nonprofits create enough quality content to be able to only tweet their own content, so curating other content through retweets is a wise Twitter strategy with many benefits.
4. Tweet or retweet 2-8 times daily spread throughout the day.
Sending more than one tweet every hour significantly decreases your click-though rate, according to social media scientist @DanZarrella. Experimentation with tweet and retweet frequency by @NonprofitOrgs has confirmed this to be true. At minimum, a nonprofit must tweet or retweet at least twice daily to gain traction on Twitter. Nonprofits that are more active should keep in mind the data below. If your nonprofit tweets more than once an hour, try pulling back and studying the results to find your optimal tweet-retweet rate.
5. Tweet on the weekends.
The vast majority of brands do not tweet on the weekends which is why its much easier to stand out on the weekends. Using a tool like Buffer, you can schedule tweets in advance without actually having to work on the weekends. Schedule at least one tweet each Saturday and Sunday. Buffer also enables nonprofits that want to build an international following to tweet on 24-hour schedule.
6. Always include a link in your tweets.
Tweets with links have an 86% higher retweet rate. This data speaks to the fact that Twitteres rarely retweet informal conversation tweets (unless posted by celebrities) and that nonprofits should embrace a retweet strategy of posting quality content with links to content sources, such as news articles, blog posts, etc. For example, @OneGreenPlanet recently tweeted a link to a call-to-action page to help Mali the elephant. Had they not included a link, this tweet would have had significantly fewer retweets.
7. Upload properly sized photos and infographics.
The ideal image size for uploaded images on Twitter is 525 x 262 pixels. This size ensures that there is no cropping of your uploaded images on both the desktop and mobile versions of Twitter. Cropped images receive significantly less retweets. That said, if your nonprofit primarily posts text-based tweets, then your engagement is much lower than it could and should be.
8. #Don’t be a #hashtag #spammer.
Using more than two hashtags in a tweet will decrease your retweet rate. Tweets overloaded with hashtags look messy, are hard to read, and make your nonprofit look desperate to gain followers. Use hashtags strategically to mention important causes, campaigns, and events – and not in every tweet. Quite often tweets without hashtags perform better. Test your tweets with and without hashtags to get a better sense of when and how your nonprofit should use hashtags. It also helps to study other nonprofits that often use hashtags, such as @ClimateReality, to see how their hashtag use affects their retweet and engagement rates.
9. Create custom images for statistics and quotes.
The @MarshallProj consistently tweets important statistics and quotes related to criminal justice reform, but those that are in image format have much higher retweet rates. Embedding their logo on their images is also smart because the more their tweets are retweeted, the more individuals recognize their logo and associate it with criminal justice reform.
10. Get to know your Twitter Analytics Dashboard.
Twitter rolled out analytics to all users in 2014, but very few nonprofits seem to know the dashboard exists. To better understand your retweet, click-through, and impression rates, be sure to bookmark analytics.twitter.com and visit often while logged in to your Twitter account. If you notice a pattern in the types of tweets that receive a lot of engagement, then post more of them.
Mobile for Good: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits
Based on more than 20 years of experience and 25,000+ hours spent utilizing mobile and social media, Mobile for Good: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits is a comprehensive 256-page book packed with more than 500 best practices. Written on the premise that all communications and fundraising are now mobile and social, Mobile for Good is a step-by-step how-to guide for writing, implementing, and maintaining a mobile and social fundraising strategy for your nonprofit.