#blogchat: how to gorge your mind on Twitter

Listen to the dialogue about social media from 6-7 p.m. Pacific on Twitter or check out the transcript at wthashtag.com

Listen to the dialogue about social media from 6-7 p.m. Pacific on Twitter or check out the transcript at wthashtag.com

I just returned from a weekend of eating and drinking my way through Healdsburg (I’ll pay for that tomorrow when I try to work out) only to sate my intellectual appetite another way:  I stumbled across a weekly Twitter-based dialogue about social media moderated by Mack Collier, a social media strategist out of Alabama. This week’s conversation was a chance to play 140-character text message tennis with Wendy Harmon, who leads the American Red Cross’ social media efforts.

I know how @maggielmcg felt when she said, “I was going to try to participate in #blogchat tonight but I just can’t keep up with Twitter chats.”  I’m kind of glad that I missed the live chat — at least as a newbie — and had a chance to decipher the transcript created by an online tool called wthashtag.com (what the hashtag).  Besides the transcript, the wthashtag.com tool is pretty cool because it allows you to see comments from people you may not have “met” on Twitter.

Most of the conversation revolved around questions that were directed to Wendy.  Here are some Q and A’s I plucked from the Twitter stream.  (I’m skipping the #blogchat hashtag in these messages for brevity and I translate a few abbreviations.  They’re all direct quotes.)

@PeaceMakerOrg (a small non-profit in Minnesota):  What do you think are keys for small NP w/o significant awareness when implementing SM*?  (*social media)

@wharmon:  i think the key is to listen and learn – find your niche.  Look for people who care about issues you care about

@Shanan_S (in higher ed, just starting a social media rich newsite for the university):  What was the greatest hurdle for you/your org when you started using SM?

@wharmon:  biggest hurdle was and is fear of losing perceived control – it’s a culture shift in doing business so takes a while… (second message) 2nd biggest hurdle is not giving in to the tendency to make your presence all about marketing instead of offering mission online

@speli:  How do we overcome the objections of those who think Twitter in particular is simply an exercise in egotism?

@wharmon:  well, in many ways, it is!  Look for the unique value your org provides and share that value, help others

@PeaceMakerOrg:  Are you finding any resistance among older audience that may not understand SM?  How to avoid alienating them?

@wharmon:  it’s a supplement/complement to other activities – haven’t stopped other stuff so if ur not here won’t bother you

@Shanan_S:  So did you focus more on educating people about the benefits of SM or dispelling fears?  first steps?

@wharmon:  First step was showing them the existing conversation, which both educates about benefits and dispels fears at same time

@WriterChanelle:  Are there non-profit organizations that *shouldn’t* use social media?

@wharmon:  Probably.  There are definite pros and cons in socmed just like anywhere else

@foxwebco:  What scares nonprofits the most about using twitter and Social Media?  I know of 1 with a protected account…

@wharmon:  loss of control scares nonprofits most (and everyone).  I think also the fear that there’s no ROI

@MackCollier:  Wendy what are some of the things TRC (The Red Cross) looks for from SM to know its working?  How do you judge effectiveness?

@wharmon:  our goal is to help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies using socmed tools, so look for… (2nd message) anecdotes, engagement, some more traditional number crunching (like evaluating FB insights)

@sarahmarchetti:  once NP have basics covered – listening/participating, what are some more advanced ways to use SM?  fundraising?  campaigns?

@wharmon:  I’m not personally huge on fundraising outright – I think an np should empower suppoerters to fundraise for it   (2nd message)  as an np we should concentrate on executing our mission.  If offering unique value, others will support.

@websuasion_ryan:  what are your strategies for finding and building your sm communities?  Particularly given your message.

@wharmon:  I’m lucky in that we were mentioned hundreds of times a day without having to work at it, but… (2nd message) you can use keywords to find people who care about issues you care about.  Offer value, talk to them, and you’ll build community.

@websuasian_ryan:  regarding that value, what % of resources do you apply to content dev vs direct engagement?

@wharmon:  I spend concentrated couple of hours in morning in engagement, bit of afternoon in content dev. and rest of day… (2nd message) monitoring and jumping in where I can (and the rest in meetings!)


Besides the Q and A (whew!), several tips and themes emerged from the cacophony (whoops – I mean conversation).  These are paraphrased (hope I got all the credits right!):

  • Don’t use social media as a megaphone.  It’s importance to stress the importance of social media as an incoming channel rather than outgoing.  (@jon_dunn, @wharmon)
  • Convince your organization to try Twitter by showing the boss that the people you want to reach are already there (@MackCollier)
  • Don’t “tweet-n-run”… that is, broadcast a message but not listen to what is said (@foxwebco)
  • Organizations don’t have to participate on every social media site – maybe only having a blog would be ideal (@Shanan_S)  Go where your audience is.
  • Don’t yap at people to give money; make sure you give value (@wharmon).  Make tweets interesting and not just “follow” or “donate” – share a story on outcomes (@ADDcrafter)
  • Group blogs (with more than one person blogging) spread responsibility around, getting over the time hurdle, but make sure there’s a point person (@sarahmarchetti); get other stakeholders (volunteers, staff, donors) to write content (@jdojc)
  • Have some trust in your stakeholders; if it’s too rule-driven, no one will participate (@jdojc)… “if mgmt says “i don’t trust you to tweet” what is that saying to your employees?” (@kdpaine)
  • Ning can be a good place for non-profits to get started with social media (@Sue_Anne), but it can offer a “false sense of security” because you don’t really know who’s there.  @4byoung responded “that’s where good community mgmt comes in.”
  • Several organizations said they use volunteers to post on Facebook and write blog posts.
  • “You don’t want that many official ‘tweeters’ but your employees will tweet so your org should have SM guidelines.”  (@sarahmarchetti)
  • Blogs can be helpful for Search Engine Optimization (increasing website traffic due to “natural” search)  (@agardina)

In signing off, @Shanan_S offered this to @wharmon:  Oh no.  Did no one tell you.  You participate once in #blogchat you become an authentic lifer.  True story. 🙂

I’m certainly intrigued… word has it there’s another guest next week, and there was a request to try to get into the use of links, trackbacks, etc.  (I need that tutorial, too!).

Post script:  Mack Collier posted his summary of the conversation on his Viral Garden blog, and Beth Kanter also offered some takeaways on her stupendous Beth’s Blog.


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