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July 17, 2008

@bkmcae's 10 rules for associations using Twitter

Dell has made $500,000 from its activity in Twitter. My association hasn't made anywhere near that kind of cash, but we're using Twitter extensively to engage our members, and we're engaging them in surveys, our blog and even our convention using Twitter. Here's what I've learned.

  1. Keep usernames personal. I'm seeing a lot of corporate branded twitter accounts lately. Worst recent offender? Baylor_Business followed me. Why are you following me, Baylor? Take a page out of Dell's book. If you want to have the username reflect the corporate brand, put the name of company AND name of the actual person using the account in the Twitter username. JetBlue has it wrong. ComcastCares has it half right.
  2. Follow judiciously. Here's a surefire way to get me to skip following you. Have a following to follower ratio of 2:1 or worse. If you're following more than double the number of people following you, I will think you're a Twammer. Don't let your ratio get out of control.
  3. Use twhirl or similar. These programs allow you to tweet using Twitter's API instead of going to or by cell phone. Twhirl in particular lets you manage multiple Twitter accounts. Perfect if you have personal and business profiles.
  4. Have a meaningful bio. Twitter gives you a few characters for a bio: Make them count. Your bio is a huge part of the decision to follow. My Twitter bio used to say "Just another user." As I started reaching out to more members using Twitter, I decided to change it so that people could have a better idea of who I am. Now it reads, "REALTOR association provocateur."
  5. Use the URL field. Again, Twitter gives you a URL field for your profile. Make it count. A link to your blog, website or something that tells me more than just the few characters in your bio can. Give me something to go on to help me make a decision about whether or not to follow you. No URL is a strike against you.
  6. "Please re-tweet" If you're making an announcement, and want others to spread the word to their followers, add this to the end of the tweet. A bunch of Tweets use Twhirl and similar applications designed to work with Twitter. They'll know what this means and send your tweet to others, if asked.
  7. Don't protect your tweets. You can make your tweets private. Don't do it. If you're tweeting for business reasons, you shouldn't have to protect your tweets, and I've been pleasantly surprised by the useful @ messages I get from people who are obviously listening to Twitter chatter on Tweetscan or similar. If you protect your tweets, they can't be found via Tweetscan or other Twitter search tools.
  8. Use private messages. It's tempting and (after some consistent use) habitual to use @ messages to deliver messages to individual users, but using direct messages not only keeps your discussion private but they seem to get more attention. Getting a direct message is like getting a personal e-mail as opposed to being one of 10 people in the To: field.
  9. Don't use numbers in your username. Increasingly, use of numbers in your username is a sign that you're a Twammer.
  10. Interact! Don't just broadcast your message. Listen to what others are saying and tweet back. That's how you'll get people to listen to you.
That's what I've learned. You got any Twitter lessons?

Tagged: ; ; ;


Lindy Dreyer said...

These are great. My rules would be...

1) Make sure your members are there before you start Twittering for your association. Otherwise just do it for yourself.

2) Never push an overt agenda on Twitter. Better to be a trusted resource--share links, comment on other folks tweets, connect members, be a real person--and the value of Twittering will blossom for your association over time.

I added a few more ideas in my sandbox.

Maggie McGary said...

My association (ASHA) tentatively started tweeting "just to see what would happen" and it's actually been pretty successful. Our efforts were geared not so much at members but just at some hand-picked journalists and people blogging about our issues. Almost everyone we followed has followed us and we've gotten some good feedback.

Now we want to get the word out to members to try to get more of a following, especially with our annual convention coming up in November.

The thing is that I don't know how many of our members even know what Twitter is. I don't think this is really that much of an obstacle, though--we recently started an ASHA group on LinkedIn and have gotten a great response, so obviously our members are not totally in the dark about social networking.

So my question is do we just start saying "follow ASHA on Twitter" and leave it at that, or should we provide some sort of super- rudimentary explanation about what Twitter is and what the point of following us would be?

Dan Scheeler said...

Ben and Lindy -- thanks for the great tips and suggestions!

Maggie, we're doing something similar to you. A few weeks ago, I put together a rudimentary explanation of Twitter (, and posted to our site as an experiment to see who would be curious and tech-savvy enough to sign up.

Aside from putting it on our web site, I haven't promoted Twitter to our membership yet, but I would like to use it on-site at our annual meeting this fall.

Maggie said...

Dan--that is a GREAT way to announce it. Explains not only what it is but why they'd want to use it--and lets them know that they're not making a lifetime commitment by trying it.

Thanks a lot--you just saved me some creative energy because I have to write up something very similar for one of our publications ;)