25 Twitter Tips For Animal Rights Activists

guest post: MacLeod

Great leaders don’t try to build a larger following, they try to build more great leaders.

A lot of what is written here is common knowledge to people who use twitter already, but there are some people who don’t use twitter, yet. When I talk to them they say that knowing how can keep them away, so what may seem like old news to some might be new to others.

What do you want your experience of Twitter to be?
for example: an announcement feed, where you drop in to update followers to a [new blog post]; or build a community, find the people you like talking to everyday, participate in discussions and meet new people; use it as just another piece of multi-media with your other social networks, or just sit back and read the headlines and inspirational quotes without much interaction.

* If you don’t already have an account, something to consider is to sign up using a free email, such as yahoo or gmail, you will be getting notifications of DM (direct message) and new followers. You can shut off that feature under [settings] -> [notices]. Although, protecting your privacy is something to keep in mind when social networking. If you haven’t signed up under a separate email but wish to, you can change email under [settings]. If you find an organisation or group that you can email subscribe to, it keeps them all in one address.

* If all you want is an announcement account, sign up then stop by when you have a new blog post.

* Next decide if you want a private account or public account. If you want private you will only interact people who you approve. If you want public, your tweets are public to everyone regardless if they are followers or not. Change this in [settings] -> [account]

However, if you want to get a little more out of Twitter, there are some things to think about

* Write a bio, sum yourself up, or the You you wish to project on twitter in 160 characters. If someone visits your page, they can get an idea of who you. Include a few key words, example, vegan, justice, ARA
Maybe add a location, cute locations like ‘your computer’ or ‘the universe’ might be fun at first, and if it is about wanting to protect your privacy, narrow it down to a country, or region ‘West Europe’ or ‘South Pacific’ Bios help make it feel like there is a real person behind the account, not just a spambot.

* Include a profile picture. If you would prefer to not use your face, something that reflects you. An image, slogan, graphic. There are times where people haven’t been able to upload, be patient, a link to your blog can provide a better understanding of who you are.

* If you are not using your real name, choose a great name, that says something about you, veganmama, BettyARA or AnimalLibNYC, and people know a little about you, “hotgirl5678” or “wellhung007” will probably get you marked as spam, or not taken seriously. You can change your username and display name under [settings] -> [account] and [pro file].

* Integrate or not integrate; link your twitter account to facebook, and when you update facebook it also updates your twitter account, (watch for the personal stuff), or you could have a tweet feed on your blog, by adding an RSS. Or have links to your blog, facebook, twitter or other social networks alerting people how to find you in other media and networks, and they can choose to follow you or friend you or subscribe if they wish.
Include a link to your blog in your profile, if people want to know more about you they can visit, and unless your account is just for [new blog post] notifications, post more than just links to your own blog, and RTs of headlines, unless that is what you want. Be consistent in the format NEW BLOG POST or [new blog post] or New Blog Post✰ and your followers will know it is Your blog that has new post. (Personal opinion, Not as many people as I would like say it is their blog that they are linking to when they post tweets.)

* Personalise your page. It is a reflection of you, and gives you another opportunity to get your message out, maybe list your website and contact details as part of your background image. You can change the colours, to something that reflects who you are. But make sure it is readable, having to highlight the text on someone’s page in order to read it because the text is almost the same colour as the background, isn’t fun for your followers or potential followers.

* Consider using a desktop application, looking at the tweets in my feed currently “Tweetdeck” is the most popular, others include, Tweet-U-Later, HootSuite, and SocialOomph. They have different features, including schedule updates, access more than one account, track followers, set up groups, shrink urls, translate, edit ReTweets (RT), email tweets, and permanent word searches, as well as many of things that can be done from Twitter, unfollow or follow users, block, search and view profile.

* Before you try and get thousands of followers, especially if it is a new account, post some tweets, make them say exactly what you people to know about yourself (not a bio, but the sorts of topics you will be tweeting about, example, animal rights, veganism, abolitionism, the environment, links to petitions you support, or famous quotes, even a couple will give the Twitterverse an idea of what you want to say about yourself). There is nothing worse than visiting someone’s profile and they have 0 tweets and no bio.

* Politeness goes a long way. Don’t be nasty, unless that is your thing, but that generally only works for a very few. Be nice, thank people acknowledge them, they mention or RT you. You could send them thank you DMs when they follow you (or set up your desktop application to automatically do it for you). Similarly, there is no need to follow nasty, argumentative people, even if they follow you, just unfollow them. Don’t get dragged into pointless fights over nothing, that’s what facebook is for. Life is too short for negativity. You can engage with people who disagree with you and you with them, without negativity, and this can lead to some great discussions.

#FF, is a good opportunity to thank people for retweets and mentions through the week, or someone who provided an answer to a question. Some people just list everyone they know, or it seems like it, but people who interact a lot, may have a lot of people to give respect to

* RT; don’t steal. Related to politeness RT rather than steal, or include a [via @Someone ] or MT (modified tweet) or V @Someone, if it is basically the same as another persons tweet. However, sometimes people will ask for a RT on their tweets, example, Plz RT (please retweet), if you do oblige, it is fine to remove the request if you do. For alerts such as rescue or missing child it is acceptable, but for someone just promoting their own blogs, and they repost the same links repeatedly, it can get repetitive.

* Quality not quantity. It is not about the number of followers, but do you achieve what you want with being on twitter. Do you disseminate information, learn about new causes, find petitions that need signing, finding out how you can help a campaign. Or are you following too many people that the issues, people and causes that are important to you get lost in the clutter. Like facebook, Twitter also is just a tool. A small group of followers who have a positive effect on your life is better than a million followers or following a million people and doing nothing with it, and drag you down with time wasting and pettiness.

* Interact with people, find the balance that best suits you between tweeting too much and too little. Talk to people, if you want. Offer something more than inspirational quotes and the same headlines and ads that everyone else does.

* Lists, use lists. Lists can be public or private, use private for family and real world friends if you want to keep that part of your life separate. Give lists good names, no one wants to see themselves listed as “annoying and boring” instead, name the list something like “must visit” (for example, you don’t want to see them in your feed, as they tweet a lot of repeat headlines or on topics that don’t interest you most of the time, but you don’t want to lose them, they occasionally have brilliant things or you are reciprocating, so you will visit them on their page).

If you have your lists set up, it only takes seconds to add new people you follow to a list. It makes people easier to find, when you get thousands of people that you are following. See how other people have someone listed, it may give you an idea of what they tweet about, or it might reflect how someone sees them.

When your feed is cluttered, or you have no time, go to the lists you want to read and filter your feed that way. Don’t crowd your list, or you may miss seeing the things that you really want to, prune who you follow as your interests change, or move them to a different list.

One possible list is for tools, include accounts such as official twitter support, spam watch, twitter cleaner, and other accounts that relate to technology support and online censorship and privacy issues (oh you mean facebook have changed their privacy settings – again).

If you follow people for short term, for example, there has been a disaster in a part of the world you’re not normally interested in, wars, invasions, wildfires, elections or celebrity scandal, and you follow people for that reason, put them in a separate list, makes it easier to unfollow them later if you choose to.

* Follow back or not. It is a feature of twitter, unlike facebook, there is no automatic reciprocation of following. People can choose to follow you, they don’t need your permission (unless you have a private account) and you don’t have to follow them back. And just as random people can follow you, You can follow someone, there is no requirement they follow you either. However, since it is also possible to list people you don’t follow, it is also possible to talk to people you don’t follow and who don’t follow you, the same way you talk to others @TheirName). It is also possible to hide people from your feed that you do follow. So, it is possible to talk to and respond to people, without the need to follow them.

Do you follow back everyone or follow selectively. Some people who may at first seem like spambots with no profiles, turn out to post some great tweets. One theory is follow everyone, except the spammers, then unfollow those you don’t like. Unlike with facebook, there is no automatic follow back, which can be a good thing, your tastes and interests vary and don’t have to match those who you follow.

#hashtags with your community, the use of hashtags do more than just highlight key words. While it does act much like a tag applied to a blog, it can also identify communities that evolve. For example, the tags #tcot and #p2 don’t convey information in themselves, but to a self identified member of that community, it makes sense. The ‘top conservatives of twitter’ and their ideological opponents the ‘progressives’. Searches find search terms with or without the # added, so it does more than just label your tweet for searches, it makes a statement of what you want readers to know about that. Use the same tags that others use for a topic, it will be found easier. For trending topics, the longer the tag is used, the more likely it is to be taken over by spambots.

However, since searches do find the term, regardless of whether it has the #symbol attached or not, some people see the tag as a way to interact, you want it to be found. A couple of users I talked to about this, said it is like an invitation to a twitter party, meaning, conversations flow, you can jump in or out, talk to strangers, that #symbol is your way of saying, I’m joining the party, I’m putting my opinions out there. Or in the case of disasters, it is a way of saying, here is a specific use of the word, rather than just a regular meaning.

Trending topics at the moment are for a select few cities and countries or the rest of the world combines as ‘worldwide’. http://trendsmap.com/ can show you what is trending in your part of the world, or where a particular topic is trending, not extensive but covers places not yet in twitters TT’s. If gives you a feed of that topic, or the most popular people posting on that topic. You can watch without joining twitter.

You can set up a search in a new tab through twitter or column in desktop applications. Searching for words such as ‘vegan’ or ‘AnimalRights’ and you can keep up with what is going on, without needing to follow people who write on that topic, or find people who talk about what you’re interested in (but not every use of the word is what you want, it could be anti-vegan or robots).

* Avoid sounding like spambots. Accounts can be suspended as with facebook. So take care of your account, especially if you build up a name and reputation. Warning signs of spambots (those to try to avoid), include 6000 followers and 0 tweets, repeating the same news headlines, only tweeting other peoples tweets and never interacting, using as many trending topics in one tweet with “I’m lonely tonight” thrown in, repeating the same link over and over especially in short url so you have no idea where it links to, repeating everyone else’s #FF (follow friday) in the hopes you will reciprocate, repeating the same link to a book or program they are trying to sell, trying to sell something with every tweet, (the really good professionals throw in some real tweets, inspirational quotes, interact with other, links to other than their own blog and the tweets that you Know are a sales pitch, you don’t really notice

* Don’t send anyone you don’t know any money, particular for human rights issues or animals, it’s easy to want to feel like your making a difference. If it is official cause or issue, find a group in your home town and donate to them, as heart breaking as it is, we can’t save every animal, instead of sending money to the other side of the world, donate to a local no-kill shelter or donate to the official charity in your city, but at least you can see where the money goes. Of course animal people are smart enough to research any organisation that is asking for money, to make sure they are legitimate first before donating.

* Verified accounts, for celebrities, world leaders and organisations, at the moment it seems verification is particularly for US or UK account, not so much in the rest of the world. If it is not a Verified account, it does not mean that it not an official account it may be the celebrity is a local celebrity. At the moment however, if it is a big name US celebrity, and they don’t have a verified account, there is a good chance it is not official.

Although, there is fun to be had with parody accounts, people calling themselves CelebFan, NotTheRealCeleb, FakeCeleb, FakeCompany, or in the case of openly gay celebrities, MrsCeleb. Or someone is using a television characters name, the good ones, soon attract others to play the rest of the cast, and tweet about topics that you would expect from that television character, done as a homage, tribute or parody, and these Non Official accounts can be as good as the real thing. As long as someone is upfront they aren’t the real celebrity, what is the problem.

* People who do nothing but provide links to their own blog, but don’t say it is their blog, or just post links with no description can clutter up a twitter feed. Saying something like “men are from Mars, women are from Venus, what do you think?” can drive traffic to your blog, and encourage people to comment, is more engaging than simply http://bit.ly/9he7ho, which doesn’t exactly say what it is people are going to get out of clicking. However, if someone wants to just post links, then perhaps, using the longer url, and readers can see for themselves what the page is about, may be more helpful.

* People repeating headlines or links, can get more views if they add a few words about it, if it is a youtube clip, say why, is it funny, heartbreaking, relevant, outrageous. If you want to motivate people to do something more than just scan the headlines as the tweets roll down their page, offering something other than just links may help do that, give people a reason to click.

* Use the tools provided:
star on the top right of a tweet, “favorites” to bookmark a particular tweet, you wish to return to later
reply when you are responding to a particular person or discussion; and
retweet when you want to tweet is to your followers (reply and retweet serve two different purposes, reply is best for discussions with a particular person, or use DM private message)

* Consider how many news organisations you follow. Too many and you will have nothing but news headlines. If there is a breaking issue in the animal rights world, plenty of people you follow will mention it.

Like all media strategies, twitter can be an effective tool for activists, especially, if you know what you want to get out of it. Twitter participation is easy. However, that participation can be in an inverse relationship to effective activism. It does not matter if its a business, social marketer, or “fake” celebrity, what matters is you control what you see and who sees you, you can be public or private, you can use it a lot or a little.

Feedback welcome.


4 Comments to “25 Twitter Tips For Animal Rights Activists”

  1. Hey, found u on Twitter & followed 2 here – thanks for this, cuz i feel like a real ‘Luddite’ on that site still… & u have some great points!~! Cheers, S.

  2. Theres a new twitter experience for animal rights activists called AR Tweets, looks quite good 🙂 http://www.artweets.net

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