Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Twitter for Organizations

Twitter for Organizations

Right now you're probably thinking, "Oh, no, not ANOTHER Twitter® tutorial!" Well, yes, this IS a Twitter® tutorial, but we're going to dig a little deeper. We'll cover the basics, then move on to organizational uses and searching. I'm hoping to impart some ideas and enthusiasm to friends in the library community as well as anyone else who might benefit. This tutorial takes for granted that the reader is already familiar with Twitter® and has a user account. For those who are not, and don't, a cheat sheet follows. The site address is http://Twitter.com/. Sign up for an account.

Why use Twitter® at all?

Twitter® creates a constant stream of updates from important sources. Twitter® is like RSS on steroids, or like having multiple (both local and international) television news reports open all at once, or like having your best friend’s opinions in combination with world famous experts' opinions—all available for questions and answers. It can also be likened to having the phone numbers of your favorite authors and artists at your fingertips. If you are an advocate, PR person, outreach librarian or technology person, Twitter® can be of great use to you and your community. This is a tool that can spread your message—whether it be an event, announcement, policy, informational resource, or just a friendly message to the community.

Organizational communication is fast changing due to social media. In many cases, these tools can be used to communicate internally and externally; they have exponential potential for market saturation. Twitter® recently emerged as a top communication tool and the uses are being investigated and exploited. As of this writing, new applications are being created based on Twitter®. Twitter® is a tool to consider utilizing when pondering news/communication tools, both personally and individually. For this article we will focus on organizational uses of Twitter®; individual usage will be covered in a later post.

Twitter® Cheat Sheet

Twitter® is what is known as a microblogging service. That is, a service that allows one to blog 140 characters at a time to a network built by the user--the "tweeter". Following are some terms of usage which you will find helpful.

Tweet: a 140-character or less post to a user account. "I am tweeting" means I am posting a 140-character post to my account, which can then be seen by my network (those who "follow" me). "I am reading tweets" means I am reading posts from others in my network.

To follow: a user follows others, which means that they see the tweets (status updates) of those individuals whom they have added to their Twitter® stream. When someone follows you, the user, this means that they have added you to their Twitter® stream and can read your tweets.

Reply: to respond to a user's tweet. When you respond, you must begin your post with this symbol: @, followed with the user's id of whom you are responding. For instance, if I were responding to my own account, I would type: "@maxmacias--you are always right, Max!" When you respond using "@reply", please know that these replies are public and may be seen by your entire network.

A mention: when someone replies to or forwards ("retweets") your tweet. Twitter® keeps track of your mentions; you can easily view them by clicking on the "mentions" link in your account.

RT (Retweet): to forward a message from your Twitter® stream to your network. This allows your network to see the tweet and to also pass it on to their respective networks. The retweet also sends the @id of the person originally posting the tweet and establishes a sort of provenance--an excellent way to broaden your network.

DM (Direct Message): a direct message you send to a user. This message is private and only goes to the specified user.

Hashtag: An informational keyword tag indicated by the # symbol which precedes it, i.e., #Iranelection. Hashtags are postings which can be searched for and easily found.

Search: Twitter® can be searched for keywords and hashtags via the search option on the right sidebar and @id names. Searches may be saved.

Twitpic: allows one to upload and share photos on Twitter®.


For most organizations including libraries, Twitter® can be a great outreach tool. Twitter® allows you to send out a constant stream of valuable (value-added) information about the library, historical events, lectures, concerts, new items available, links to library videos, interviews, podcasts and more. Twitter® is also an effective public relations tool, announcing press releases, organizational communications, general information and also targeting populations directly.


Twitter® is fun. It's all about networking, sharing information and answering questions. The content—and the stimulation—is as rich as your network.

Phones and other devices

Twitter® and many Twitter® applications may be accessed on phones and other devices. This allows a wider access to information and a larger audience than the usual web content. The digital divide is interestingly being conquered by wireless carriers; at the very least, the carriers have had a huge impact in lessening the chasm.


Twitter® is free; it only takes an investment in people.

Ease of use

Twitter® is easy to use; with a bit of participation and networking, you will soon develop your own help network as well as helping others along the way.


Photos can be shared by sending a link to your photos, or by posting to Twitpic®. This service tweets a link to your photos when you post them to the site (a handy tool to use with your phone camera). Photos are powerful; symbolic, they can carry strong messages to your network.

Some Considerations on Following Individuals and Organizations

Does the account you are considering provide information that is valuable to your organization?

Can you collaborate with this organization offline?

What organizations or individuals from outside the library field will benefit your organization?

What other fields would provide ideas and models that might be adapted to your organization?

How can you help others in their missions and goals?

Stay away from direct marketers, pornographic profiles, bots, and accounts that do not relate to your mission. Check profiles before following. Some profiles are bots or direct marketing types. A quick look at the profile and recent posts will tell you if you really want to follow that particular user.

Search: you can search from Twitter® looking for mentions of your id, your organization's id, or someone else’s id. You can also search for hashtags mentioned in the cheat sheet. Try searching for #iranelection. Look at the return and how it refreshes. When there is an event going on and people are tweeting and including the hashtag, all of the tweets will show up in your search. This can be a highly effective way to get a message out; marketers, artists and others come up with clever ways to get their hashtag trending (becoming a popular tag on Twitter®).

Follow Friday/Viva Viernes

Every Friday people tweet their favorite people to follow. This is a great way to network. After a certain amount of time your social capital (SC) is built up and you can endorse other users with authority. As you build your SC, you build trust with your followers. This is likened to a trusted news source whose sources and veracity of information check out when investigated. Participate in Follow Friday and you will build your SC much quicker.

Hashtags for FollowFriday/Vivaviernes:

#FF # followfriday #vivaviernes, etc…

Hashtags are trended at various sites on the web. One can gauge the popularity of a conversation by analyzing how many times the tag appears in conversations. The tag can “trend” which means that it ranks in popularity.

Here are three sites that show twitter trending topics:




Twitter Campaigns

An organization can create a campaign by urging your network and communities to use a specific tag. This tag will trend and will show how popular your campaign gets.

Ability to Pump Out Tweets to Various Platforms

Your Twitter® feed can be pumped out to your blog, website, or other social networking sites with a Twitter® badge or widget.

Organizational Considerations

Internal Tweets

An organization can use #hashtags to post non-confidential internal tweets to employees.

Look at profiles

Make sure they are not bot, spammers, or direct marketers. Also be sure they are related to your organizational goals/mission.

Twitter Applications:

As you build your network it may seem overwhelming; you might want to use a Twitter® application (an outside vendor) to make your life easier.

There are several:



Tweetdeck ®


Characteristics of good Twitter® applications

Ability to store tweets for later answering/retweeting. Tracks links followers follow.

Better interfaces than Twitter®

Easy to reply, retweet, dm, etc…

Easy to follow, unfollow, etc…

Archiving of tweets

Allow you to tweet from multiple accounts and to tweet to your Facebook® status

The ability to group your followers into groups, i.e., news group, tech group, library group, etc.


An organization can perform a search utilizing several different search utilities for Twitter® or by asking their network or posting a direct question to people. There are a broad range of topics, anything from politics to web design. The access to specialized information is incredible!

Responsible and Privileged

Make sure the individuals who have been assigned to tweet for the organization are responsible.

Use multiple people to keep the posts interesting and diverse. This can be effective as Twitter® requires continuous interesting posting to build SC.


The organization should have a clear policy that addresses:

Appropriate language

Appropriateness of links provided

Non-political links and tweets

Tweet with the organizational mission in mind at all times

Individual vs. organizational Twitter® usage
The tweeters should understand they are representing the organization and that their personal viewpoints should never override information provided and should never dictate information shared or re-tweeted.

Assessment: How will the ROI be assessed? What will be considered successful? What are your benchmarks and how will you reach them?

Building community

Tweet organizational related material. Retweet information you know your network will appreciate. Do not argue, flame or use derogatory language when tweeting. Stay positive and friendly. Share, share, share. Be yourself and be genuine, but always remember you are a representative of the organization. Again, look for those who your organization can collaborate with and build off one another’s work. Cross—promotional opportunities abound in the world of Twitter® .

Contacting luminaries, artists, politicians, etc.

Accessing leaders in most fields is easy if they are using Twitter®. If one is interesting, and thoughtful, as well as being in possession of SC, then one can reach many important authorities in various fields to ask questions, or just to give thanks for their work. I myself have had the opportunity to thank some of my favorite authors and musicians via Twitter®. You never know where you will find the next valuable supporter.

Become a resource for those in your network

Provide information, respond to questions about best practices, calls for help, trending certain topics; be friendly and approachable.

You are the ambassador of your organization to the greater world when you tweet. Be a diplomat and train your tweeters to be diplomats and collaborators. Miscalculations like this:

Tweeting without thinking about ramifications can lead to things like this: Arnold and knife. Needless to say you don’t want negative PR issues to deal with. It is better to be disciplined in your tweets and to have well-trained tweeters for your organization.

Tweetups, Social Media clubs and groups

Look for local Tweetups (an offline gathering of localized, or special interest tweeters), Social Media clubs and groups. Depending on your field there may already be specialized groups, or perhaps you can start one in your area. There is strength in numbers and you can bounce ideas off one another, perhaps compare best practices and have presentations that are edifying to members.

Twitter cause banners/ribbons:

You can add a ribbon to your profile photo via services like this to show your support for a cause, organizations or person, etc…

Here is one site that can help you:


Links for Further investigation

Here are some links where you can learn more about using social media to enhance your organizational goals and mission.

Nancy White on the difference between a network and a community

Search Twitter

Social Media in Plain English

Twitter in Plain English

Drupal API for Twitter®

Mashable’s list of Twitter® tools.

Brian’s Blog PR 2.0:

He is smart and knows what he is talking about in relation to technology, communications and PR.


Another smart guy who is sharp and interesting.

What is Whuffie?

Tara Hunt’s Blog


Gary Vee is amazing. Watch his videos and learn.


Technology communications guru.


Is a technology evangelist.


The Twitter Compendium is designed to link you to news and information about Twitter, a global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing? Answer on your phone, IM, or on the web

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