To tweet or not to tweet
April 24, 2013 12:08 PM   Subscribe

How useful is Twitter these days? I work in an advocacy-type job at the intersection between law, politics and a giant, sometimes heavily regulated industry. I really need to strengthen my connections, and I'd also like to raise my organization's profile online. Social media is obviously one part of the arsenal -- but is Twitter a worthwhile starting point? I only have so much time in the day to devote to this, and I could instead focus my efforts on blogging for a moderately well-trafficked niche group blog. I'm not so much interested here in driving traffic to our website, but rather to entering more fully into the conversation online.
posted by yarly to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I think the beauty of Twitter is that it requires very little time, since you are limited in how much you can write. It is a great platform for putting out updates, event notices, and links to relevant articles and websites related to your field. If you have the time to blog, you can fit twitter in there, even if it's just to tweet the link to the blog post you just wrote. It would take you an extra 1-2 minutes each time you put up a new blog post, but would potentially give you an increase in readers.
posted by markblasco at 12:14 PM on April 24, 2013

It has been my impression that it only works *well* if you have the resources for someone to use Twitter like a regular user - not just posting a thing or two a day, but following a variety of accounts that talk about things your company is interested in and engaging them. That's fairly time-consuming and requires someone who's reasonably savvy about Twitter.

The other thing Twitter can do for a company is to offer convenience for your followers, alerting people of news or updates when relevant. If the bulk of your online participation is via that group blog, it would be fine to have a Twitter account mostly for linking to articles you write there, just so interesting Twitter users can hear about it.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:14 PM on April 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Twitter is time-consuming; the short format means that you need to pushing things several times a day to get noticed.

One thing that I found it good for in an organizational sense is that it personalizes your organization; in other words, if you tweet what's happening in your offices: "We are getting ready to go talk to Senator X, here's a pic from the road." If you are trying to get average citizens involved, then that is the tack that seems to connect most easily; they feel like they know you, thus are more likely to retweet and donate. You can tweet funny or interesting things that are not directly about your org or advocacy in amongst the notifications of events and links to articles.

If you want a more formal approach, then you still need to tweet frequently, but it can be more of a news-type tone. "Description of issue: link". "Intriguing quote: link" or "Event is happening: link" Kind of like, oh, Lawyers, Guns and Money or any number of political blogs. Mother Jones is pretty good at using Twitter to drive eyeballs and raise issues.

You say: I really need to strengthen my connections, and I'd also like to raise my organization's profile online. Twitter is not really that good for strengthening connections; it's a broadcast medium more than a connection medium. You can tweet each other's events, which is nice, but to people not in your field already, not very interesting in and of itself. Twitter is public-facing.

Raising your organization's profile is a great goal, but only if you or someone else spends a lot of time on Twitter keeping it alive and worth clicking on by others several times a day.
posted by emjaybee at 12:31 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Twitter is not really that good for strengthening connections; it's a broadcast medium more than a connection medium.

Just as a contrary data point, Twitter is basically how I developed a network of other writers who know me. I think it's absolutely a connection medium.

I think if you're talking about participating in conversations taking place "out there," Twitter is very likely to be a big part of that. It's a great way to find out who the big thinkers are (they're the ones everyone else follows and links to), who's perceived as credible, who knows each other, who's in the same grouping, and so forth. I think Twitter is exactly what you need. And note that much of this can be accomplished with you mostly reading; you don't have to write a lot.

But that's just me; other people's experiences may be very different.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:37 PM on April 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

Actually, I was specifically thinking of you, Linda_Holmes, when I was talking about using an organizational Twitter account just like a regular user. You do it particularly well and I totally believe that it has been super helpful.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:41 PM on April 24, 2013

I think one of the bigger risks of attempting twitter with few resources is that your organization would get a bad reputation if you can't timely respond to tweets. You're then the nonprofit that doesn't care.

This is especially true if you guys might potentially touch on any hot button issues that would cause twitter to explode after a bad news story.
posted by politikitty at 12:41 PM on April 24, 2013

That's a good point Linda, I was thinking more in terms of tweeting as an organization than as a person. Your organizational twitter becomes the face of your company.
posted by emjaybee at 12:42 PM on April 24, 2013

Yeah, most writers (including me) have something more like a hybrid personal/professional account -- my account isn't organizational, exactly, but it's professional me rather than just personal me. My situation is a little weird. I use it to advance ... my work, kind of, which advances my organization? If that makes sense? It's not organizational tweeting, but professional tweeting.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:54 PM on April 24, 2013

I really need to strengthen my connections, and I'd also like to raise my organization's profile online.

This sentence in your question makes me think that your initial efforts would be more effectively spent with LinkedIn, not Twitter.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:56 PM on April 24, 2013

I disagree that Twitter isn't a good medium for connecting. I've made a lot of great professional and personal connections using it. Tweeting is an opportunity to start a conversation with thought leaders or prominent people in your field that you would never friend on Facebook or might be too intimidated to approach at a conference. You're also able to see what others in your field are reading, talking about, or following.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 1:54 PM on April 24, 2013

Twitter is such an individual experience (totally driven by who you follow, who follows you, and the numbers of each) that I think any generalization is perilous. This Twitter user study might be useful. If it's true that "a Twitter user on average follows 102 people," then for the average Twitter user it probably is a fairly fast-moving conversational stream. (I follow about 80 people and find it difficult to keep up, but I only look at Twitter occasionally during the day.)

So if you're one of the 102 people on an average user's stream, you'll probably need to tweet a few times a day in order to really establish a presence. That's assuming you're only posting "announcement" style tweets, links to blog posts, things like that -- identity building. If your aim is to engage Twitter users in conversations, the more such conversations you have, the more time you'll need to spend on Twitter.

In a fast-moving conversational stream, individual conversations get stale rather quickly. I would liken it to an AOL or IRC style group chat in terms of the level of focused interaction needed to maintain active conversations with people. If I had significant time restrictions, I'd probably go with a blog, since discussions on each entry would be more like a bucket than a stream, and the time element would not be quite as critical.

In general, I would say that what you get out of Twitter is proportional to how much you put into it. So my advice would be to determine whether the amount of time you're able to devote to it is worth the commensurate amount of return. The smaller the amount of time, the more modest your expectations should be.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 2:58 PM on April 24, 2013

I considered Twitter to be a time waste when I first came across it. But, I have to agree it had the ability to personalize the quality of account management for my own business. I do wonder how some people manage to post so continuously. I find the challenging aspect is knowing not who to follow, but knowing who is really following you.
posted by parmanparman at 4:17 PM on April 24, 2013

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