One of the basic factors to having a successful social media strategy is having an effective online profile. These days practically everyone turns to the web first when researching anything. This is especially true when people are trying to choose a cause or charity they can get involved with, donate to and support in general. And don’t worry. The nonprofits that attract people’s attention are not necessarily the ones with big budgets and glitzy TV ads. Nowadays, people are more media savvy and pay attention to nonprofits with great web content and presence.
All social networking sites (like Facebook, Twitter and Change.org) require that your nonprofit have its own profile within their site. Profiles are your piece of real estate in the social media world. Like a home, garden or park, this piece of real estate can be made more inviting to visitors if well tended. Therefore, you want to put some thought and energy in coming up with a profile that will increase your brand reputation, make people want to learn more about your nonprofit’s work, and recruit new supporters and advocates for your cause.
Below are essential tips, strategies and best-practices that you can use to create a Twitter profile that will stand out and spark people’s interest in your non-profit.
1. Username. This is, perhaps, one of the most important features in determining your success on Twitter. As a rule of thumb, your username should be the same as your nonprofit’s name (e.g., @acumenfund @AmericanCancer @RedCross). Choosing wacky names (such as nonprofit_2713) will not advance your cause nor your social media strategy. You will probably be considered, and treated, as a spambot. The point is that funky, weird names do not inspire confidence nor do they enhance your brand identity. You will have a really hard time getting followers.
2. Picture. Your picture is the icon, photo or avatar that is featured on your profile. I typically recommend that you use your nonprofit’s logo. From a branding perspective, your logo helps the user create a visual connection between your nonprofit and the work it does. Although some people advocate using a real photo so that users can see you as human, I advise against this. The problem with this approach is that your brand becomes associated with a particular person rather than its mission. In my opinion, your nonprofit should use a profile picture that reinforces your brand. Also, try to keep your profile pictures consistent across all social networks. This will help people find you and recognize you online as well as offline.
As you can see, you can be as creative as you want with your photo. Note that the Red Cross even uses a call-to-action (join us!) in their profile picture. In the case of LiveStrong, their bio pic is a yellow band featuring the organization’s name. The neat thing about @livestrong is that supporters can freely incorporate the yellow band in their profile pictures. What a great way to increase brand visibility, create buzz and be part of the social community. All this marketing by users for LiveStrong is free. Supporters are helping the organization increase their visibility, raise funds and engage new supporters simply by including the yellow band in their profiles
3. Background. Create a custom profile page. Your Twitter background is the strongest tool you have available to do this. Give people “visual candy” to entice them to learn more about your cause. The background is where you can list your website, tell a bit about your work and provide links to your Facebook, YouTube or Change.org pages. In addition, if you want to feature the people Tweeting on your behalf, this is the place to do it!
As usual, when creating your profile background think of it in terms of marketing and branding. Use the colors and fonts of your organization. Below are a few good examples of backgrounds on Twitter (click on them to see their original size).
4. Biography. Be succinct. Aim for a one-sentence bio. Make it short and to the point. Your goal is to write a Twitter bio that gains you more followers and supporters. A key fact to remember is that the average attention span for web users is about 5 seconds. Therefore, you need to grab the user’s attention AND keep it.
Lets take a look at some examples of good bios:
5. Web. Always use your website url (e.g., www.hivlawproject.org). Do not shorten your website address by using services like tinyurl.com or bit.ly. A key reason for using your website url is to create “inbound links” to your website. As we discussed in “10 Tips to Effective Search Engine Optimization for Nonprofits,” inbound links, especially from sites that rank higher on search engines, are an effective way to increase your nonprofit ranking on Google, Bling, Yahoo and other search engines. Inbound links are perceived as recommendations, so it is important that you use your nonprofit website address on the “Web” field on your Twitter profile.
Look at the above examples of good bios. All nonprofits feature their full web address in the “Web” field. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. If large organizations, with the budget to spend on social media consultants, are using their full web-address then it is safe to assume that our small and medium nonprofits should follow their best-practices.
6. Create a Twitter Landing Page as your “Web” URL. Here is an option that you may want to experiment with. Instead of using the front page of your website in the “Web” field, you can create a Twitter landing page somewhere on your website (perhaps under the “Media” or “Connect with Us” sections of your site). After all, big businesses create custom landing pages for different markets. You can create a page that explains to potential followers and constituents how your nonprofit uses Twitter and how to interact with you. On this Twitter landing page you can let people know more about your nonprofit (at least provide a link to your “About” page), what kind of topics your nonprofit tweets about and how often, and, if available, your “follow” policy (do you follow everyone back? do they need to fill out a request for you to follow them back, etc).