If you’re asking “So our congregation is on Twitter, now what?”, the nine tips below may help you plan the next steps for enhancing your Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation’s Twitter presence.
- Keep Twittering! Generate content that is relevant, unique, and spiritually-nourishing, in order to attract and serve followers.
- As you Twitter, stay focused on your congregation’s mission and values. Let those guide you in making decisions about what content to post and how to interact with followers.
- Publicize the Twitter feed to members of the congregation and encourage them to follow it : email your Twitter URL to congregants, include an announcement in the congregation’s newsletter or order of service, and talk to other members about why the congregation is using Twitter.
- Tag your Tweets with relevant keywords. Tags are formed by adding the # symbol directly preceding a keyword in the Tweet. For example, #uu can be used to denote a post about Unitarian Universalism. Here’s a sample post, including the #uu tag, from the UUA’s Twitter feed: Nov. 09 congregational bulletin with news and resources for #uu congregational leaders is now online: http://tinyurl.com/Nov09CongBulletin (One or more tags may be placed anywhere in the Tweet).
- Follow other Twitterers that are connected to your congregation, or write about topics that are relevant to your congregation (such as Unitarian Universalism, your local neighborhood, or a social justice issue that is important to the congregation). A Twitter list of UU congregations on Twitter can be found at: http://twitter.com/uua/uu-congregations You may also want to follow most or all of the Twitterers who follow you.
- Retweet posts that are relevant to your congregation or reflect the congregation’s mission and values.
- Reply to Twitterers commenting on your Tweets or on related subjects.
- Send a reply or a direct message thanking Twitterers who follow your congregation’s feed and/or who Re-Tweet your congregation’s Tweets.
- Evaluate your experience with Twitter at regular intervals, with an openness to incorporating feedback from followers and changing course as needed to further your congregation’s larger mission and values.
For those readers who are on Twitter: What other suggestions do you have for Unitarian Universalist congregations on Twitter?
And for those readers who are not using Twitter but would like to learn more, Twitter has a nice Frequently Asked Questions section that explains terms like “reply”, “retweet”, “direct message”, “follower”, and other Twitter terminology.
I would urge a healthy dose of caution at following those who follow you. There is a form of reverse spamming in which marketers or twitter accounts that just link to unsavory websites follow thousands of people. It does no good to follow them back–in fact, many active twitterers block such accounts.
As a novice to Twitter, I wonder this: is there a location with common UU hashtags?
Thanks for your advice about being thoughtful in deciding whom to follow back. If a congregation wants to follow most of its followers, but weed out spam, then one approach is to establish clear criteria for distinguishing between legitimate accounts and spam accounts, and consistently follow only those accounts that meet the criteria for legitimacy. I think the key is to have a well-developed, consistent approach, so that the decision is made in a methodical rather than subjective, ad-hoc way.
One way to find the common UU hashtags is to search in Twitter for Unitarian or #uu and see what other tags are coming up in those posts. For example, I used to see many instances of #Unitarian, but its use seems to have waned a bit recently.
It’s also worth considering how you can use hashtags to connect with Twitterers who are not Unitarian Universalist but may be interested in the same topics as you. For example, I’ve tagged our @uua Tweets with tags like #meditation, #lgbt and #StopStupak when relevant. My guess is that the more narrow tags (like #StopStupak) are also more successful in attracting new potential followers. It seems to me that narrow, specific tags put your Tweet into a conversation with a smaller and more interested group of Twitters following a specific conversation.
On the flip side, it may be that tagging is only of limited utility, even when done well. I read somewhere recently that only a few small percentage of Twitterers actually use tags. And Twitter’s search functionality allows the tracking of conversations using keywords as well.
If you decide to experiment with using more or different hashtags, please let me know how it goes!
Twitter admins: Don’t be myopic about the potential. Every UU congregation with a Twitter account helps “brand” our faith. The more we can converse, participate, and link to other pages and other people, the better we’re getting out the word about Unitarian Universalism in general.
“The Twitter Book” is a good resource. I also Twitter for the company I work for, and I think of our UU Twitter account as a kind of “business promotion” for our congregation. The same tips that apply to a business apply to a congregation. Don’t limit to posting in-house events. Give links to interesting community activities — especially free events for families — so that people find our posts surprisingly generous and useful. Network with other like-minded organizations, and retweet their posts.
Schedule time on your personal calendar to post something new every couple of days. And always think of how a post will read to someone NOT from your own congregation. Is it inviting? Is the jargon explained?
Make sure you didn’t use the whole 140 characters. Leave enough room for “RT @YourAccount” in the next person’s retweet.
I believe that Twitter’s new “retweet” button only sends that post to followers the two accounts have in common — BUT, if you still use the old “RT @TheirName” format, the post goes out to your entire list, not just the ones you have in common with @TheirName.
Plus, always test your short-URL links (such as bit.ly) before you hit “send.” And If you linked to another page via Facebook, for instance, you can get a Facebook-specific link, rather than the direct web address.
Proofread! Edit! Play with the order of the phrases to make the first few words compelling.
Ellen, your suggestions are terrific and the comment is very thorough in addressing a range of topics that congregations (and other Twitter users) grapple with. Thanks!
I’m commenting here because I’m feeling lazy about tracking down your e-mail, but I noticed in the latest Interdependent Web column that one congregation is using Ning. I’ve been interested in learning about Ning, and wondered if you might do a column on it and how congregations can and are using it.