Guest Post: Laura Brahm, web officer, Open Society Foundations
I spend several hours a month managing the Open Society Foundations’ Twitter presence. I train others in the organization to use the platform, and, typically, spend way too much of my own time there. So I take it as an article of faith that Twitter is a key tool in our foundations’ communications strategy, and that it ultimately supports the larger Open Society mission.
Yet after two years and some 2,000 tweets, people still occasionally ask “Why do the Open Society Foundations tweet?“ I thought it would be useful to share my “top ten” reasons with you. Do they sound familiar to other tweeting foundations? Do you have others to add? And, if you don’t tweet — or you can’t make a convincing argument inside your foundation — does this help?
Read the list and comment. We’d love to get a conversation going — here and on Twitter, of course.
1. Breaking news. News is increasingly broken on Twitter, and you can follow events as they unfold in real time, often in the voices of real, on-the-ground people. Sometimes Twitter is itself part of the story. Look no further than recent developments in Tunisia or Egypt.
2. Fast, wide distribution of our news and ideas, and those of our grantees. We currently have more than 14,000 followers from around the world, and that number increases by several hundred more every month. And with a click of a button, those followers can share our content with their own networks, multiplying our reach exponentially.
3. Trackability. Thanks to analytics tools, we can track when people click on or share our content, and even how they feel about it. In the pre-social-media days, we knew very little about whether people read or shared publications such as newsletters or reports, or what their sentiments were when they did so.
4. Conversation. Followers share comments and questions with us, and we respond. These conversations are public and transparent to others, who are welcome to join in. This kind of authentic engagement helps us build and strengthen relationships with supporters, who may ultimately advocate on behalf of the Foundations and our issues.
5. Collaboration. Our followers are not a passive audience, and we encourage their input. For example, a while back we tweeted about a new multimedia piece we’d done on the issue of statelessness. Within moments, a blogger replied on Twitter that some information on a particular country was outdated. We put him in touch with the program staff who’d worked on the text to discuss and update.
Moreover most journalists and bloggers are now on Twitter; they frequently ask questions or seek input as they are working on a story, which gives us an opportunity to help shape stories and build better relationships with the media.
6. Inclusivity. A recent Pew report about Twitter usage shows the relatively high participation of the following groups:
- Young adults – Internet users ages 18-29 are much more likely to use Twitter than older adults.
- African-Americans and Latinos – Minority Internet users are more than twice as likely to be on Twitter as are white internet users.
If you have a mobile phone you can participate on Twitter—it doesn’t require a computer, which helps close the “digital divide.” For an organization such as ours, which is dedicated to reaching traditionally marginalized groups, this is a definite advantage.
7. Listening. We can follow issues, grantees, colleagues, journalists, foundations, and other stakeholders via search, hashtag, list or other tools. We can see what people are saying about us—or if they’re talking about us at all.
8. Real-time search. People increasingly expect to be able to find the most up-to-the-minute information, and Google now offers “real-time” search of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. But users are also going directly to the source itself, Twitter, to get the latest scoop.
9. Social impact. Twitter is playing an increased role in social and political organizing, and a great deal has been written lately about its role in Tunisia and Egypt (see for example: “It’s Not Twitter or Facebook, It’s the Power of the Network”).
For a terrific example of an advocacy campaign that used Twitter and other social media to build enthusiastic worldwide support and participation, check out ItGetsBetter.org.
10. It’s fun and often funny, like hanging out with a roomful of smart, witty people. And if you’re a news junkie, like to play with words, or are just opinionated, you may get a little addicted!