A few days ago we talked about how you could use a blog site to help make the world a better place. Today we’re going to chat about how to use Twitter in the same way. A lot of people still think of Twitter as “that site where people talk about what they ate for dinner.” It’s true that not everyone uses Twitter in what we might call “meaningful” ways, but there is a huge opportunity for value. Here are 25 of my ideas on this topic.
1. Follow organizations that tweet out important information. On my own Twitter account I follow groups like the National Wildlife Fund – I don’t really engage with them, and often these accounts won’t interact with you a whole lot, but the information they’re sending out is extremely important. Following them makes it easy for you to help them get that information out there.
2. RT important information even if it has nothing to do with you or your business. For example, during the Japanese earthquake and tsunami a lot of people were tweeting information about how to get a hold of loved ones even though they themselves were not directly affected.
3. Ask questions, whether it’s about Twitter itself or other issues. The chances are good that your question is something other people want to know but may be too shy to ask about. Your question might even spark a really important conversation, which could help out a lot of people.
4. Look for chats that are trying to improve the world. For example, there is a #cancerchat that could help a lot of people fighting cancer themselves or trying to deal with a loved one’s fight with cancer. That’s a powerful way to use Twitter.
5. When you see someone is discouraged, try and reach out to them. Whether they’re discouraged about something online or in their real life, knowing someone cares can be a real difference-maker.
6. Tweet out some of those blog posts we talked about the other day. If you see someone standing up for another person or dealing with a really important but sensitive issue, show them some of that Twitter love.
7. Help people feel special. This is SO easy to do on Twitter. Asking people to wish someone a happy birthday, recommending on a Wednesday, say, that people follow a person…these are all very easy ways to make someone smile, and they all only take seconds of your own life.
8. Personalize your retweets so that people know you have genuine interest in what they said. It’s really easy just to hit that “retweet” button, but taking a few extra seconds to type in your own feedback makes the retweet seem much more genuine, at least in my opinion.
9. Support great hashtags that come around. One that has been used lately was #nokidhungry. These kinds of hashtags are powerful ways to attract attention to an important issue.
10. Tweet to support fundraising efforts. Again, I look back on the Tutus for Tanner effort. People were engaging with each other, they were engaging with Tanner’s family, and they were making sure they helped spread the news about the fundraiser. The cautionary note here is that you NEED to do your due diligence and make sure everything is 100% legitimate before you start asking people to support a cause.
11. On Friday, use your FF carefully and thoughtfully to spotlight someone who is really working hard to make the world a better place. I saw someone recently who used their #ff tweet to highlight several not-for-profit organizations that have Twitter accounts. Rather than just tweeting out a long list, tweet out one at a time and explain a bit about what they do.
12. Don’t send out negativity. As rapidly as good thoughts and feelings can spread on Twitter, negativity can spread just as fast. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can never express sadness or frustration or things like that, but being mean to people or saying that people are evil or stupid or what have you…that just stirs up unpleasant vibes. Go punch a pillow 🙂
13. If you see someone who is struggling with an issue that you yourself have overcome, try to offer your advice, whether through a tweet or maybe through a direct message. For example, people often say during #blogchat that they are feeling really overwhelmed. It’s nice for veterans of the chat to reach out and say, “Hey, I know how you feel…this is what I figured out to make it easier for me.” Of course, this can be done with issues far beyond Twitter, too.
14. Start a chat, a hashtag, or a conversation about an important issue. It might take awhile to start gaining steam, but making the effort and gathering even a few people who pay attention to that issue – that can be a big help.
15. Create lists of helpful organizations or people. This is something I don’t see a whole lot of on Twitter, but it seems like lists could be created with names like, “People who can help you get used to Twitter” or “People who can help you if you are thinking about hurting yourself.” These lists would have more meaning than “People who don’t follow back,” I think.
16. Use Twibbons or customized avatars to help visually promote a cause. Right now Danny Brown’s 12x12K is offering people a chance to do this. There are many ways to get these twibbons and customized avatars. While a lot of people note that just changing your avatar doesn’t *really* do anything, raising awareness can still create important conversations.
17. Applaud when others succeed. The online world is a competitive place. Let’s just be honest about that. We’re all competing for someone’s time and attention. Because of that, I think sometimes people are a bit hesitant to applaud great things people do. Applaud as much as you would want applause when you succeed.
18. Emphasize praise over promotion. A lot of times we focus on offering “RT love” or helping someone increase their traffic, but in all of that, it’s important to say sometimes, “This effort by this person is astonishing,” or “This post made me think in new ways and I really enjoyed that.” It’s still promotion in a sense, but it’s coming from a slightly different angle.
19. Introduce people to each other. One of the greatest people to follow as an example of this is @cateTV. Cate seems to know everyone, which helps, but she also knows how people can help each other. If you are working on a specific kind of effort, Cate can direct you to people who have similar interests or who would want to help you out. That is an invaluable skill on Twitter. After all, there are quite a few people over there.
20. Use your bio area to promote a special cause. Again, I don’t see this a whole lot. We have such limited space in our Twitter bios and the pressure is to tell people about, well, us. However, on occasion we could switch up our bio to say, “This month I’m using this space to promote xyz organization.” People can still link to your site where they can learn more about you, so you’re not losing all that much.
21. Tweet about sensitive issues in a caring and respectful manner. When I say “sensitive” I am not just talking about painful subjects. Politics can be a sensitive issue. Religion can be a sensitive issue. Be cognizant and respectful of the fact that people feel very passionately about these things, and strive not to offend.
22. Instead of trying to get attention from “the influencers,” work on positively influencing others.
23. When someone is near a milestone, help them reach that goal. Even though I know that the number of followers I have doesn’t really mean all that much, it was still exciting to get my 50th follower, my 100th follower, and so on. If someone tweets “Oh, I have 93 followers and I’d love to get to 100!” help them out.
24. When someone asks a question, see if you can help them out if you have time. Maybe try to research the answer, or direct them to someone you think could answer the question easily and well.
25. If you sense someone is being bullied or maltreated on Twitter, try to step in if you think it’s appropriate. This can be a very delicate dance because you don’t want to step into a personal tiff, and sometimes the full context of a conversation escapes us. But find ways to ascertain what is going on. Maybe try to direct the conversation elsewhere. Just be careful.
So those are my 25 ideas for using Twitter in a constructive and helpful way. What did I miss?
This is post #80 in the Engagement Series. If you’re worried about missing a post, please hit the subscribe button! Thank you!
1st image by sanja gjenero. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lusi
2nd Image by Crystal Church. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/twitchtoo