The Digital Charity Lab 5 Minute Guides are intended to give you the basics on a particular digital platform or project. They are collaborative documents and we welcome your feedback and further suggestions in the comments.

TwitterWhy Twitter?

  • Free platform for promoting your campaigns and talking about your cause.
  • There are 320 million Twitter users worldwide (source: Zephoria).
  • Unparalleled for reaching influential people – many journalists and commentators use Twitter as a primary news source, and some celebrities have an immense reach on Twitter.
  • Using ‘hashtags’ allows you to join in, and sometimes start, national and international conversations.
  • It is really useful for keeping an eye on conversations about your brand, and the issues you work on.

The Pitfalls

  • It is extremely easy to make a gaffe or a misstep on Twitter, and have it blow up and become a PR headache.  There is an unfortunately sizeable segment on Twitter that enjoys and encourages witch hunts.
  • As with all social media, there is a lot of noise and clutter and it can sometimes be difficult to get your message heard.

Twitter Conduct

Twitter has many unwritten codes of conduct. A few you should know:

  • Don’t tweet lots of random users asking them to follow you. It’s fine to contact people or organisations you already have a relationship or connection with, but try to personalise the messages.
  • Don’t spam people by sending the exact same tweet to lots of users.
  • Don’t just tweet links to your press releases – Twitter is a platform for conversation. Interact with other users, ask them questions and reply to theirs.

It’s best to start slow with Twitter and find your feet.


Hashtag = a word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#), used on social media sites such as Twitter to identify messages on a specific topic. Hashtags are extremely useful as they bring all tweets on a particular topic together.

  • Check which ones are already in use for a topic.
  • Make sure that they don’t accidentally spell something unfortunate.
  • Don’t use lots of hashtags as it makes your tweets difficult to understand and look spammy. Try to stick to one or two.
  • Remember that only letters and numbers can be used in hashtags – no punctuation, special characters or spaces.
  • Be specific – vague hashtags like #poverty will bring up too many unconnected tweets.

Mashable have a handy guide to hashtags.

Twitter Strategy

As with Facebook, it’s good to have a clear strategy, goals for each tweet and to track the return on investment where your time is concerned.  Beth Kanter has a great round-up of resources for developing a social media content strategy on her blog.

Useful Tools

Hootsuite is great for monitoring on Twitter – set up streams for your organisation name (include common misspellings), your public spokespeople, and keywords relating to the issues you work on.  Basic Hootsuite accounts are free.  It also allows you to schedule tweets if you are planning them in advance.

(I really love Twitter by the way! It’s great for finding interesting people and content, great for breaking news and also great for laughs. If you’re on Twitter, hit me up on @digicharitylab.)

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  1. Jean

    Two other points on Twitter etiquette that occurred to me recently:

    – don’t set up auto DMs that send an automatic message when someone follows you. They’re clearly fake and just annoy people
    – PLEASE don’t use those stupid daily paper things that gather tweets into one unreadable page and then send the tweeters annoying spammy notifications

  2. James Marley

    Quick question please – how important is the timing of tweets. Should there be a strategy for that or is that just over complicating it

  3. Jean

    Hey James, good question – for general, everyday tweets promoting your work I’d say timing doesn’t matter too much. Twitter moves incredibly quickly so the main thing to remember is that tweeting something just once usually won’t be enough.

    When it is useful to time tweets is when there’s an opportunity to join in a conversation around a particular time-sensitive hashtag, eg if a popular tv show touches on your cause’s issue. Then it makes sense to time the tweets to when the show is actually on.


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