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Five Types of Nonprofit Tweets Guaranteed to Get Retweeted

September 16, 2012

@NonprofitOrgs follows more than 120,000 nonprofits, nonprofit staff and nonprofit service providers. Now, of course it’s humanly impossible to follow the tweets of that many Twitter accounts, so to make the chaos manageable I organize my favorite nonprofits and those whose tweets consistently stand out from the rest into Twitter Lists. However, at least 10 times a day I go to my “Home” view and scan through hundreds of tweets hoping to find new nonprofits to retweet or list, but the honest truth is that the majority of tweets (from those 120,000+ nonprofits) in my “Home” view are un-retweetable. They are loaded with marketing pitches and often have punctuation and grammar errors, messy formatting, and one too many hashtags. These are the characteristics of tweets that I know my followers have no interest in seeing me retweet. I know because I study which tweets get retweeted – and which don’t.

If your nonprofit’s tweets never get retweeted, that is the Twitterverse’s way of telling you that your tweets need improvement and that it’s time to experiment with posting different content. I want you to ask yourself before every tweet you’re considering posting: Will my followers find this interesting? Does this tweet speak to our mission and programs? Does it inspire and evoke a powerful emotion? If not, then in most cases, I’d say don’t post it. Since nonprofits should only be posting 4 tweets and 4 retweets maximum per day spread out throughout the day, don’t waste them. Make them smart. Make them useful. Make them inspiring. Translation: Please stop posting a steady stream of “Thanks for the RTs!” and “Thanks for the mention!” and “Did you know we’re also on Facebook?” 🙂

Now, if you haven’t yet come to understand why getting retweeted is so important, it is simply this: If you want your community to grow on Twitter beyond those that followed you from a link on your website, blog or e-newsletter, your goal should be to get retweeted so your avatar and your content gets forwarded to Twitterers outside of your small corner of the Twitterverse. Some of those Twitterers who are exposed to your avatar and your smart, useful and inspiring content for the first time will then be compelled to “Follow” you. After that, your job is then continue to post tweets that keep them interested and following you. The good news is that the types of tweets that get retweeted also make for a good overall Twitter strategy. That said, be sure to study the other tweets posted by the nonprofits below. You see that these five tweets by far got the most retweets:

1) Powerful stats that speak to your mission and programs.
Rainforest Alliance :: @
30,350 Followers :: 54 Retweets

2) Quotes that inspire social good.
Operation Smile :: @OperationSmile
37, 534 Followers :: 186 Retweets

3) Well-formatted, easy to read factual tweets.
Save Pell Coalition :: @SavePell
832 Followers :: 17 Retweets

4) Position statements spoken with clarity and conviction.
Mobile Cause :: @MobileCause
1,741 Followers :: 14 Retweets

5) Tweets that tap into the #BreakingNews cycle.
Amnesty International :: @Amnesty
495,250 Followers :: 98 Retweets

The five types of tweets listed above only scratch the surface of retweet best practices. Whether others retweet your tweets in the old school style or new school has a huge impact on the power of getting retweeted – as does your decision to use or, colons or periods before links (or none at all), and whether you attach an image or not – and this is knowledge only gained through months of experimentation and study, or by taking my webinar on Twitter and Twitter Apps for Nonprofits. 🙂

Finally, one last point – there is a time and place for marketing pitches on Twitter. Unfortunately, many nonprofits tend to think that is multiple times daily (some even every hour on the hour), but that only results in lot of  Twitter clutter and in most cases a colossal waste of time for your nonprofit. Marketing on Twitter should err on the side of subtly and for most nonprofit Twitterers that’s an understanding and skill that can take months or even years to realize and master. Experiment with the five types of tweets above for a month or so and I guarantee you’ll notice a difference in your RT and CTR (click-though rate) numbers – and likely gain some new followers in the process as well.

Related Links:
Four Reasons Why Your Nonprofit Should Follow More on Twitter
Webinar: How Nonprofits Can Successfully Use Twitter and Twitter Apps

41 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2012 5:20 pm

    Reblogged this on txwikinger's blog.

  2. Editor permalink
    September 17, 2012 1:38 am

    Reblogged this on Social Media Marketing for Non-Profits.

  3. September 17, 2012 7:52 am

    Interesting that all five of them are or are founded on negative news. Is this comparable to fb’s research that positive news get “like”-ed while negative news gets comments?

  4. September 17, 2012 9:27 am

    Just read this before posting an article to Twitter today and the tweet is already getting more reception than usual. I opted for a quote from the article before posting it. For the first time in awhile, people are actually commenting within tweets, in response to my initial tweet. Thanks for the advice!

  5. September 17, 2012 12:31 pm

    I really like the points you have made, they resonate with my experience and am sure are a good guide to any non-profit wanting to have a successful social media presence.

  6. September 17, 2012 1:06 pm

    This is a great little article. I see many organizations really trying hard on social media. These tips are very practical.

  7. September 17, 2012 4:32 pm

    I disagree about the daily quantity of tweets that you suggest. If you are a nonprofit with dozens of interactions in a day, you should be available to acknowledge and share those experiences. If there are more than 4, you should not limit yourself.
    Not all nonprofits are alike. Using social media for an arts organization, for example, requires and provides opportunity for a more classic B2C relationship.
    It is is just as wonderful to RT a positive experience as it is to receive a RT about a service.
    I welcome your feed back.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      September 17, 2012 4:54 pm

      It’s hard to say without seeing your tweets?

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      September 17, 2012 4:58 pm

      Also, if you are tweeting as an individual it’s a totally different set of rules. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote this post. A lot of folks that tweet as individuals consult brands on how to tweet… and it’s just not the same. Totally different. But again… are you getting retweeted? That is the the question. And what the article is about. 🙂

  8. September 17, 2012 5:32 pm

    I approach this both as a consultant for nonprofits and small B2C businesses alike. I am also the full time social media strategist for Nashville Symphony.We have no problem managing the traffic such as these numbers on Twitter last week;
    Twitter  +185 mentions of @nashvillesymph and +40 RTs  
    164 Additional mentions of “Nashville Symphony” on Twitter

    In my research for I have found that many Armerican arts nonprofits can and should be smarter about content and engagement.

    I think we would both agree that you don’t want to start a conversation on Twitter (or anywhere else) and then walk away from it.
    Until more nonprofits have a full time staff person working on these conversations I can see how limiting the quantity of tweets and RTs may make it manageable.

    Disruption does take a lot of time to monitor.

  9. September 20, 2012 7:53 am

    Thanks for the insight! So glad you mention that grammar and punctuation matter on Twitter–and everywhere else that organizations communicate.

  10. September 22, 2012 4:48 am

    Great post, and I’d mostly agree. Although I think you gloss over the “how often to tweet” question in your rush to your own marketing pitch (aka; I tell you the real secrets if you buy this course). Well done! Truth is, every organization is different and different people use Twitter differently.

    There are also times like breaking news cycles, events, tweetups and more that will call for different strategies.

    Finally, I would not count replies in the “daily limit” as they generally don’t show in users home feed.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      September 23, 2012 7:20 am

      It’s a much needed marketing pitch and I do it rarely. 95% percent of my income comes my webinars and if I don’t “market” them, then this blog, this research and @NonprofitOrgs… all of it goes silent. Thankfully, I got enough registrations from this post to pay the day care this month… not easy making a living giving webinars to nonprofits with tiny budgets! As far as replies/retweets/tweets… looks like you tweet as an individual and as I mentioned in the post, that’s a completely different set of rules. Tweet your heart out! But nonprofit brands need to stay focused and tweet quality over quantity. 🙂

  11. Torie Davis permalink
    October 16, 2012 3:08 pm

    I really enjoyed this article. I am currently a student at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana. I dedicate many hours of community service to the nonprofit organization Council on Domestic Abuse (CODA) through my Greek organization, Alpha Chi Omega. We are always looking for ways to spread the word of the work CODA is performing at their facility and ways to bring awareness to domestic violence. I will be passing on this article to the professional staff. Thank you!

  12. peter permalink
    February 10, 2013 9:42 am

    Twitter is doing a nice job!


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