Starting Conversations with Twitter


On Wednesday, March 21, GlobalGiving hosted a webinar for our Project Leaders on how to effectively engage their audiences on Twitter. If you weren’t able to attend, you can listen to the recording here and find the slides here for Beginner and here for Intermediate. Check out a summary on our training below!

Twitter is a tool for individuals, organizations, and businesses to connect with each other through simple, 140-character messages called Tweets. Currently, there are over 100 million users who send over 250 million Tweets per day.

How do I join Twitter?

Why should I use Twitter?

Twitter offers a simple, easy way to connect with hundreds, if not thousands of users across the Twittersphere. Since there is no barrier to following users, you’re free to listen and engage in conversations with anyone you’d like. You don’t have to worry about joining the right group or being asked to help plant a row of vegetables in someone’s virtual garden; instead, you jump in and start participating in the conversation. Once you’ve established your Twitter account and after you’ve started following some of the users you’d like to hear, you’ll find that it’s a great way to get to know people. Since Twitter truly encourages authenticity, you’ll forge new connections and be able to bring existing relationships to a different platform.

What can Twitter do for my organization?

Twitter offers a variety of services of which organizations can take advantage. Because of its instantaneous nature, it provides a way to receive immediate feedback. Since users enjoy Twitter’s friendly way of delivering content, it also offers an avenue for driving traffic to your project, promoting details about your work, and raising awareness about specific campaigns. Once you find out who is engaging with you on Twitter, you can also glean more information about your target audience and direct more appropriate content towards them.

How is Twitter different than Facebook?

Simply having a Facebook account can seem overwhelming at times, especially with the onslaught of page changes that have occurred over the past several months. Twitter offers a more immediate way of communicating with your followers in a quick, pithy format. Since the lifespan of Tweets tend to be much shorter at under an hour than Facebook posts (24 – 48 hours), it’s beneficial to Tweet timely, up-to-date information about your organization and other relevant information about your field. It also serves as a great way to search for existing conversations about your organization, as well as involve you in other conversations in your area of expertise. For example, common hashtags and search functions include #philanthropy and #nonprofit, immediately introducing you to other people who care about the same issues you do.


  • Tweet: The name of the message you send out, 140 characters or less
  • Follower: A person who had chosen to read your tweets on an ongoing basis
  • Reply or @: The @ symbol means you’re talking to or about someone. If you start a tweet with someone’s Twitter handle, it only appears to your mutual followers.
  • Direct Message or DM: A private message between two users. You can only send DMs to users who are following you.
  • Retweet or RT: The act of repeating what someone else has tweeted so that your followers can see it
  • Hashtag or #: Start with the symbol “#”. It is a theme for the tweet that allows all similar tweets to be searched.
  • Links: Tweets are tight on space, so Twitter auto-shortens links. You can also use services like to shorten links and track clicks.

Twitter etiquette:

Not only does Twitter have its own vocabulary, it has a specific set of guidelines of etiquette to encourage positive, constructive interactions:

  • Try to keep your tweets at 120 characters or fewer: Since Tweets are limited to 140 characters, this will encourage more retweets if users don’t have to edit down your content to share.
  • Don’t only tweet about yourself: It’s like showing up to a party and listening to someone talk only about themselves; it doesn’t make for very good conversation, right? On Twitter, it’s helpful to share updates about your peers, about key information in your field, and about details that share valuable insight into who you are as an organization.
  • Don’t just be in it for the numbers: While it may be intimidating to start out with just a few followers, active engagement and good conversation will keep them coming. You would rather have 250 highly engaged followers than 1,000 followers who never tweet back at you.
  • Be consistent and be part of the conversation: Social media can seem to be a very time consuming activity! If you only have five hours a week you can spend on social media, you should instead spend an hour a day staying involved on Twitter instead of lumping the five hours on one day. It will be easier for you to monitor mentions of your organization, encourage conversation about your organization, and stay on top of timely news and current subjects.
  • Be proud of yourself, but be proud of other people too: Congratulations! Did something great just happen for your organization? Shout it from the rooftops, and tweet proudly about your accomplishment! By the same token, share accolades freely about your peers or similar organizations who do something great too. It feels good when others share your successes, so be sure to do the same thing for others. It will also make them more likely to share your successes when it’s your time to shine.
  • Don’t spam your followers or other users: A no-spam policy is a healthy approach to all forms of online interaction. People don’t want to feel like they’re being used, and it’s an easy way to break down trust between users.
  • Be authentic!: You are unique and you are wonderful in your individuality. Figure out what makes you “you,” and share that with the world. People will respond better when they feel like you’re being genuine, so shine on and be authentic.

Maximizing your Twitter account:

Now that you have a Twitter account, make the most of it. Tweet frequently, between five and ten times a day, and stick to a routine. This will help establish a stronger presence for your account. You’ll also want to consider the type of information you’re going to share. The Twittersphere responds better to quality information, like project updates, timely organizational news, photos, and articles. These types of tweets tend to be retweeted more often, and they’re likely to engage your followers more strongly. You should also tweet with purpose. This means using calls to action strategically to avoid fatigue, but Twitter users do enjoy having their opinion counting. Ask questions of your audience – poll them for thoughts and use it as an opportunity to gain quick feedback from your base. You should also follow key players in your field, and retweet accordingly. This will help show your thought leadership and promote engagement with other organizations and users you respect.

Develop a strategy:

While it’s easy to sit down at your laptop at start tweeting, it helps to have a framework in mind before you go at it. Figure out what it is you want to accomplish, and set goals accordingly. Make sure you consider your target audience and who it is you want to reach when making these decisions. Decide which staff members or volunteers will be Tweeting from your account and monitoring your online presence so you aren’t left wondering who is paying attention. It’s also helpful to try and figure out how you’ll respond to feedback ahead of time to avoid scrambling when someone may have some constructive criticism for your organization.

But what about fundraising?

Being on Twitter doesn’t necessarily mean people will donate to your project, but it does mean that you have a new tool to start a relationship with potential donors. Twitter is as simple as having a conversation. The more you authentically connect with other users, the more people will listen to you. The more people listen to you, the more people will trust you, and this is what leads to donations. Not only will you be a part of the conversation, you’ll be helping drive it.

Have any questions?

Let us know! We’d be happy to hear from you.

Twitter: @GlobalGiving
Email:  KC Ellis at
Phone: 202-330-4042

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