[cross posted from www.3s4.org.uk]
2009 has already been a big year for Twitter and it’s only February. With people like Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross discussing it on national TV and radio, new accounts are being registered in their thousands. But what is Twitter and can it really be of any use to the voluntary and community sector?
Twitter is a difficult beast to explain but essentially it’s a micro-blogging tool. It allows you to post “tweets” with a maximum of 140 characters, reply to other posts that are of interest and follow what others are saying. It’s easy to build a network of people with similar interests and opinions to you by seeing who others are talking to. What started with asking the question “what are you doing?” is turning into a key social media tool.
This week alone has been extraordinary in Twitter land. On Monday we woke up to the thickest covering of snow in London for 18 years and almost immediately people were rating the snow cover in their area out of 10, with results feeding into the #uksnow map. I used Twitter that morning to find out what was really happening on the trains and on realising we were going to be stuck at home everyone used it to share their pictures of snowmen. Just last night Stephen Fry got stuck in a lift and kept the world informed about the ordeal through Twitter. The whole story made it into The Sun.
What might seem like idle time wasting to some only builds on the sense of community between users. Twitter users working in the voluntary sector are already meeting at an NFP tweetup (using the American acronym for the sector) to talk face to face about issues affecting them. In this case Twitter is only the tool which facilitates real life discussion.
But what of voluntary organisations? Can Twitter really be of use? Organisations such as Bullying UK, the RSPB, Amnesty UK, Voluntary Action Manchester and Dogs Trust certainly think so. These are just a few of the VCOs using Twitter to get their message out. These organisations have already used Twitter to update supporters with news, launch campaigns, recruit volunteers, advertise events, ask people to write letters of support, share pictures and stories and seek comment on consultations. The interconnecting networks of users help organisations to spread their message far and wide.
The best way to understand how Twitter might work for you is to try it out, so why not get started by following someone and then see where they lead you. The contacts quickly build up and the conversations start. If you need someone to follow then why not try http://twitter.com/NCVOForesight.
There’s more information about Twitter and how to get started in the How to use new media guide on the ICT website. Other information about Twitter is bookmarked at http://delicious.com/ICT_Hub/twitter.