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Twitter: you reaching out to the community

Statistics about social media and Twitter before we dive into Twitter tips…

  • According to a December 2010 survey from Pew Research, two-thirds of online adults (66%) use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or LinkedIn. 58% of those who participate in religious groups use sites like Facebook and 11% use Twitter.
  • 73% of teenagers who are online are users of social media sites (Pew Research, February 2010).
  • Overall adoption of Twitter was stable over the last year (15% of online adults now use Twitter, similar to the 13% who did so last May 2011).
    • At the same time, intensity of usage has increased—8% of internet users now use Twitter on a typical day.
    • African-Americans continue to use Twitter at very high rates—28% of online African-Americans are Twitter adopters, and 13% use the service on a typical day.
    • Usage by young internet users (those 18-24 years old) increased dramatically over the last year, with nearly one in three now using Twitter.
    • Data also suggests that these trends are deeply intertwined with mobile Twitter usage on smartphones. Fully 20% of smartphone owners use Twitter overall, and 16% use the service specifically on their cell phones. (All above stats from PewResearch)

So if we want to engage with the community, we’re going to need to be using social media sites.

Twitter can be the most active and engaging social networking platform out there, if you spend some time learning about the community and interacting with others.
  • Twitter feedTwitter is like sharing sound bites – a place to share links, news, and knowledge in only 140 characters.
  • Many refer to it as a “real-time information network.”
  • It’s also a pulse on the people who shape our culture – i.e. actors, musicians, artists, etc.
  • It’s live and instant – like texting – but you don’t know if people are listening right at the moment that you tweet.
  • One major difference between Twitter and Facebook is that people using Twitter usually do not go back and “catch up” from the last time they were online to see what they missed. They get online, they check tweets for a few minutes, and they get offline. So this may mean that you need to share something many times, at different times of the day, on Twitter for people to see it. People will tolerate more repeats on Twitter than they will on Facebook.


Grey’s Anatomy video – great example of how the “institution” can use Twitter

www.twitter.com/naaho – my profile

As I’ll say over and over about social media, be authentic. Twitter is a great place for collaboration and creativity.

  • To get started, use their search for friends option (through your email address) and “follow” a few friends. Then click on the profile of a friend you trust and look at who they follow and who follows them. Click to “follow” others from their profile.
  • Shorten links with bit.ly (this one will track opens for you) (although now Twitter.com will shorten links for you).
  • If you don’t have an iPhone or another smartphone with a Twitter app, you can set up to send texts to “40404.” This is how Twitter became so popular in the first place. (Do this from the settings page in your Twitter account.)
  • Schedule tweets throughout the day with www.hootsuite.com or download www.tweetdeck.com. For a small fee ($9/mth), Sprout Social will also track analytics and allow scheduling. Or try the excellent Buffer, which will send your tweets out to your followers based on when they are online.
  • Search for buzz words or topics (you can also set up columns in Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Sprout Social to watch phrases regularly). Here is a how-to video to help:

  • hashtag is kind of like key words in a search or a label you would give a file folder…it’s a way to group tweets so they are all under the same topic and people can follow them easily. For example, at the ALCBF meeting, I was sending out tweets and putting #alcbf at the end. Then if someone clicked on that hashtag phrase, they could see everyone at the event and what they were tweeting anytime they put #alcbf at the end of it. When you go to a conference, see if they already have a hashtag and put it at the end.
    • Sometimes people use it to be sarcastic too and it doesn’t actually group with other tweets. For example, today I might tweet, “It’s still hot in Mobile. #fallcantgetherefastenough” There’s not actually a hashtag group with that phrase, but it’s a way to save character space and kind of say things under your breath. Note if you put symbols in the phrase (like the missing ‘ mark for can’t), it will break the phrase.
    • When you hear people talk about “trending topics” on Twitter, they are referring to hashtags (though sometimes it’s just a phrase w/o the hashtag that is repeated a lot).
    • Twitter will not save hashtag groups for more than a few days so if you wanted people to have access to them later, you can register them with “twubs”. Here’s the ALCBF one I was referring to: http://twubs.com/alcbf.
  • RT means “retweet” – depending on the platform people are using to send out tweets, sometimes that is automatic. But it’s an easy way to say, ‘this is not my tweet, it came from someone else.’ Usually you also include the users @name to give them credit. But it’s not always necessarily. When I use my ‘twitter for Mac’ platform, it puts their name underneath and shows arrow symbols that mean it’s a retweet.
  • @ is how you link to another user’s profile. All Twitter programs will automatically make the characters after an @ symbol a live link to an account until it gets to a space or symbol. So if you actually mean to say the word “at” but are using @ to save space, be sure there’s a space after it. If you want to reference another person, then put their user name with @, and they’ll get notified that you mentioned them. If you’re at a conference, find out if the speaker has a twitter name & give them credit for their quotes.
  • If you start a tweet with the @ symbol, it is only going to show up in your follower’s feeds if they are also friends with the person you are mentioning. So a way people got around this is to put .@ at the start of the tweet. But if you just want to talk back to someone, don’t put anything in the front. This is not a private response (you have to use Direct Tweet for that), but people won’t see it in their streams unless they are friends with both of you or click on your profile. Sometimes you do want your response to be for everyone, so then you put a “.” in front.
  • @, retweet, and quoting tweets is how you make connections. Otherwise, you are just shouting to the crowd. Twitter is about engagement.
  • You can post from FB to Twitter. You do this through Facebook and their apps. Personally, I prefer selective Tweets because sometimes I don’t want everyone on Facebook to see my Tweets. For one thing, it negates the reason for them to follow me both places (no incentive), but I also use Twitter in a different way than Facebook. When you sign up for selective twitter, then it only goes to Facebook when you put “#fb” somewhere in the tweet. Otherwise, it just stays on Twitter.
    Here are links for both types – all tweets to Facebook: https://apps.facebook.com/twitter/?ref=ts
    Selective tweets: https://apps.facebook.com/selectivetwitter/?ref=ts
    Mashable had a few more: http://mashable.com/2009/05/25/twitter-to-facebook/
  • Have a group gather at church and then pray for the world. Log onto twitter and search for #needprayer or #needsprayer. Pray for the requests as they come along and maybe even let the person know that your group just prayed for them.
  • Encourage congregants to tweet at you or quote you during your sermon! Or ask if they can summarize the sermon in 140 characters. Pay attention in your manuscript to whether you include sound bites or not. Use twitter for the sermon prep during the week leading up.
  • Your church can use it too: (an example: http://twitter.com/#!/SABCPrayerFocus)
  • Center for Congregational Health: twitter.com/cntr4conghealth and a communication conference I did for them – #churchcomm
  • Join in a Tweet Chat about the church and social media. Weekly Tuesday nights, at 9 pm (EST), search for  #chsocm. They also produce a transcript if you have to miss out, and they run a great blogspot: churchsocmed.blogspot.com.
  • A great resource: http://blog.kissmetrics.com/using-twitter-effectively/
  • And a great background piece: Five Ways Twitter Changed How We Communicate



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