20 Tips for using Twitter as a Community Engagement Tool

I realised the other day that we have never published a list of tips for using Twitter as a community engagement tool. To help put this right I called on some of the foremost minds of online community engagement, using Twitter of course. The list below comprises their ideas and recommendations, with a couple of my own thrown in.

There is some overlap between these tips so rather than attribute each in turn I will list the contributors here. Anyone interested in online community engagement would benefit from following all of these people on Twitter so I will include their Twitter handles here as a list of people to follow.

Here the 20 tips for using Twitter as a community engagement tool:

  1. Before diving in consider carefully where Twitter fits in your strategy. Are the people you need to reach on Twitter? Do you have the resources to properly monitor and respond to an open platform like this? How are you going to use input from Twitter in your decision processes? Are you ready to handle community backlash if it comes? Deciding not to use Twitter is perfectly legitimate.  Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.
  2. Ensure you have permission to respond. There is not much point in being on Twitter if you have to get each tweet signed off by 5 people in your organisational hierarchy, you will never be able to be responsive enough.  Better in these circumstances just to listen and to communicate with other channels.
  3. Be conversational, join in, ask questions.
  4. Never get drawn into a fight. Make your point with a smile but always stay positive.
  5. Set some targets. By all means, followers are good, but retweets, replies and favourites show your community are really hearing you.
  6. Build your following organically – there is no hurry. Following loads of people in the hope of attracting followers risks your online reputation and also risks you being heard by all the wrong people.
  7. Don’t waste your time or theirs.  If you are using Twitter to engage the community make sure you are really listening, engaging and responding – present and active throughout.
  8. If you’re using Twitter as a customer service channel consider paying for 24/7 monitoring to ensure you don’t miss anything.
  9. Ensure that you record all tweets in and out as you go along, as well as counting retweets and favourites so that you can consider them in your final reporting and decision processes.
  10. Use Twitter to direct the community to relevant information to encourage a more informed debate.
  11. Link to websites in your tweets as a call to action.  This is something that a lot of EngagementHQ users do, using Twitter to highlight the opportunity to participate in an engagement process. By way of an example this from @SydneyYourSay:
    Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 11.25.09 AM
  12. Embed Twitter feeds in your corporate or online engagement websites to highlight inputs coming from Twitter.
  13. Encourage the use of Vine or Periscope, Twitter’s video and live streaming app respectively, to encourage the sharing of events, visual ideas and also to promote the process and event. For more on Vine see my previous blog post featuring some of the work done by the City of Salisbury in South Australia.
  14. In a similar vein, use Instagram, linked with a # to add a pictorial element to your consultation. Especially where you are discussing design issues.  Of course, you can also just encourage people to tweet pictures straight from their phones.
  15. It can be a bit annoying if you want so share something that has a really long URL (web address) leaving you very few characters for your Tweet. Use bit.ly to shorten URLs and free up some of those precious characters. Just go to the bit.ly site and type in your URL and it will give you a shorter version instantly. It’s free and simple to use.
  16. Consider using Storify as a way to record the Twitter contribution to the process and as a feedback mechanism. By way of an example here is the Storify feed from our Big Bang 2012 conference.
  17. Use hashtags to promote events and encourage gatehashing – the practice of contributing to events you cannot attend through Twitter. Top 15 Community Engagement Hashtags
  18. Find ways to link the Twitter and face to face conversations you are having. Pose the same questions to the room and to Twitter. Have a live twitter feed in the room to allow Twitter feedback to be considered. Welcome and announce Twitter questions to ensure the tweeters feel wanted.
  19. Consider setting a 140 character challenge for your face-to-face engagement so it can be mirrored on Twitter.  I can just picture the outrage in some groups I’ve worked with at the merest suggestion of limiting real world discourse to fit with Twitter! However, it is a way to get very refined and exact feedback from groups.  The alternative is to use links to more detailed content. However, this 140 character challenge might be more palatable if each table is given a device, logged in to Twitter with a unique personality, in which to enter their feedback.
  20. Don’t forget to also use Twitter to communicate the final outcomes and decisions of a process.

Profuse thanks to all the contributors! You can also follow Bang the Table @bangthetable and our product offerings EngagementHQ @engagementHQ and Budget Allocator @budgetallocator. We also welcome your feedback and comments!

Photo Credits: Carlos Larios

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