Social media can be a bit confusing for people that are not familiar with it. With Facebook’s “Likes” and Twitter’s “Tweets”, the terminology alone may make one feel unsure of what it’s all for. However, social media can be a valuable tool for associations in particular.
But where do you begin? Why would an association want to use these sites? In this series of posts I’ll be discussing how associations can utilize a few major social media sites to enhance their efforts in grassroots advocacy.
Twitter is a great tool to deliver short updates in real time to users, as well as a way to track news and online trends. Twitter has a large and active community, over 200 million users send 50 million tweets per day. It can be baffling to those that don’t understand it, but to those that use Twitter, it’s a fantastic and addictive tool.
Twitter is a website where a person or group can create an account and begin sending messages called “Tweets.” A Tweet is a message that is only 140 characters long (that includes letters, numbers and symbols). Tweets can be about anything and can include links to websites, pictures, or other Twitter users. When you write a tweet, it is sent to every person that is “following” you, meaning that they have agreed to receive updates from your account. You can follow other Twitter accounts too and receive tweets from users you are following. Only your followers can see your tweets, so if you want to privately communicate with your members you can choose to do so.
Twitter can also be a useful tool for advocacy. If your association’s members are following you they will be able to receive instant updates from you any time of day. This can be a great way to engage your members. For example, when a new bill is introduced, you can send out a tweet about it with a link to your website. If you post legislative news updates on your website you can send a tweet to let your followers know about it.
Many politicians have Twitter accounts and post updates regularly, like this list of Georgia politicians with Twitter accounts. Search for and follow the politicians that your organization would like to monitor, they may tweet about bills and issues you are interested in. You can also send direct tweets to people to start conversations with them about particular issues. If a politician you are following says something controversial about an issue you are concerned with, you can retweet (or republish) it to all your followers to generate buzz. Actions like these can really help you engage your members.
If you want to use Twitter to promote your events you can utilize “hashtags.” Hashtags (denoted by the “#” symbol) can be used to mark your tweets with a keyword that other users can search for. For instance, if I wanted to discuss an upcoming event, I could use the “#event” hashtag. Any users monitoring the “#event” hashtag would then see my tweets. You can create your own hashtag for your events and encourage your attendees to use it during your event. You can pose questions and start discussions online about things happening at your event to get feedback from your audience in real time. You can also monitor popular hashtags to see what others are saying about specific issues. Research which hashtags you want to contribute to so that you can reach the audience that is relevant to your issues.
Check out our Twitter page to get an idea of how it all works. You’ll see we tweet a few times a day with links to news and offers.