Can Twitter Help Advance Your Chapter's Conservation Goals?

From Audubon's TogetherGreen Team

"The weather reports keep announcing that the sky is falling, but here we are -- millions of us -- sitting around trying to invent new ways to talk to one another."
- Time Magazine about Twitter

You've probably heard a lot about Twitter. With 105,779,710 registered users and 55 million tweets* a day, Twitter is adding 300,000 new users daily. But don't get overwhelmed just yet. As the TogetherGreen team has discovered, Twitter is just another tool in the communications toolbox--a new way to carry out old business.

The new way--sometimes referred to as Web 2.0--is a means of sharing real-time information and engaging in a conversation on the web. The old way of doing business--Web 1.0--is having a comparatively static website. This evolution doesn't mean you should get rid of your web site--you will always need an online home base. It simply means that you have another way to share your conservation message.

For some people, they're so busy they don't have time to think--let alone send out more messages into the cyberspace ether. That's okay! Twitter only allows you to write 140 characters and is designed for people on-the-go. Plus, being brief and to the point can help you hone what you want to say to your specific audiences.

Before your Chapter takes the plunge into Twitterland, the TogetherGreen team compiled a list of questions to help you decide if Twitter is a good fit. If you respond "yes" to most of these, then Twitter might be right for you.

Are you a good conversationalist?
This might seem really basic, but to engage in a conversation you need to be equal parts listener and responder. Listening is one of the most important things your Chapter should be doing with social media tools. To listen on Twitter, find (and "follow") users who are having conversations about the issues, programs, and geographic location your Chapter is focused on. These users could be other environmental groups, local businesses, scientists, individuals, members, and so on. What are people saying and what is missing from the conversations? Are people frequently asking similar questions or bringing up common misperceptions? This could be a great opportunity to contribute to the dialogue and point people to your website to answer questions and dispel any myths. In today's text-based environment, responsiveness leads to trustworthiness.

Do you want to build relationships?
Think of tweeting like dating. When you are dating someone, you are really interested in learning about that person so you ask a lot of questions and listen to what they have to say. Same goes for Twitter. When you tweet, you do it for others--to help them learn, make them feel good, and get them to trust you as a source. The Twitter community will look to your Chapter as an educational and informational resource. Your tweets can help community members, potential funders, volunteers, and those passionate about the environment feel "in the know" on issues they care about. Have a rare bird alert? Tweet what species, and where and when you saw it. Need volunteers this weekend? Tweet the request. Spark up conversations to reaffirm the connection between your local Chapter and your community members.

Are you on-the-go?
Real conservation happens "in the field" and chances are that's where most of you spend most of your time. Of active Twitter users today, 37% use their phone to tweet. This is good news for Chapters who, armed with a phone with a Twitter application, can do live tweets from events; shine a spotlight on incredible work as its occurring, give acknowledgments, and even share pictures, all of which demonstrate that there is, in fact, a real human on the other side of the screen.

With a Twitter feed*, you can also encourage followers to report their own bird sightings or environmental musings via Twitter with a hashtag* in front of your Twitter name (e.g., #togethergreen) so you can monitor how many people respond.

Do you have personality?
Twitter gives you the freedom to talk like a person and not like a press release. It may take a little getting used to, but your Twitter voice will need to be typically light and upbeat, probably a lot like who you really are. (And hey, if you're a real grump - well, make a feature out of it. You could be the next big thing on Twitter - the Grumpy Enviro.) Don't be afraid to be yourself and try to add value, insight, and direction with each tweet.

Ready to get started?

Step 1: First things first--sign up (it's free!) at www.twitter.com. Just like using any other social media tool, it's best if you create a personal account first so you can start using the tool and getting the feel for it before launching the organization's account. You may want to register the account for the organization as soon as possible, though; to be sure you get the username you want! 

Step 2: The hardest part about getting started on any social media platform is getting that first batch of friends. But feel free to start by following @togethergreen, @audubonsociety, and @audubonmagazine, all of which will probably follow Twitter etiquette and follow you back. Conduct a search on Twitter at http://search.twitter.com and use key words and location and follow away.

Step 3: Establish a point of contact (or more ideally, multiple points of contact) responsible for identifying, trafficking, or responding to Twitter. Be honest and transparent about who is actually sending out the messages.

* TWITTER TERMS:

Direct Message = private message to friend
Feed = a news feed or Web feed provides users with frequently updated content
Hashtag or #term = way of grouping so anyone searching that term sees your Tweet 
Reply = @username (goes in your public feed)
Retweet (RT) = To repost another user's message on Twitter
Tweet = Twitter message/update

For more info:

For more information on Twitter, check out the simple guide to terms above, and please contact Brenda Timm with any Twitter questions you have.