Twitter. I have never had the slightest desire to check it out. And yet, this week, I had to “step out of my comfort zone” one more time (I’ve been forced to do this a lot over the past two years of OOMPH!) and delve into the sea of chatter I have been avoiding. I have been a long-time Facebook user so really, I thought to myself, it can’t be that bad. I dipped my toe in the water, started my account and dutifully followed the instructions to choose some people and organizations to follow. They included the usual suspects for someone of my age, gender, ethnicity, political affiliations and interests: BBC World, the NYT, UNICEF, Nature, PNAS, etc. I patted myself on the back for being so brave and went downstairs to make a cup of coffee. On my return I discovered that my computer had exploded with a tsunami of content, streaming through my homepage with no evidence of slowing. How can so much have happened in the time it took me to make a cup of coffee……and that was only in the world of the 10 groups or people I was following? I recalled Randall’s post earlier in the week, ” Who are these people, and who has the time?” and wondered how anyone could possibly follow 1000 tweeters. At this point I felt like I needed to get out of the water, or I would drown. Unfortunately I did not have the luxury of avoidance this time as I had to complete my homework for the week. So, holding my nose, I took a deep breath and dived in…..
I decided to avoid the main flow of my home page and concentrate on the pool of one organization’s tweets as suggested for our “Explorations” assignment. I chose the organization CamFed as they are not a very large non-profit organization like UNICEF or Save the Children, but are very successful and have a successful traditional media strategy as evidenced by the excellent op-ed that appeared in the NYT a few weeks ago: What’s so Scary about Smart Girls.
By way of introduction, Camfed is an organization that helps girls in rural Africa to gain access to the education they deserve. As they say on their website: “When you educate a girl in Africa, everything changes. She’ll be three times less likely to get HIV/AIDS, earn 25 percent more income and have a smaller, healthier family.”
I chose to follow their tweets back over a period of the last month of so, and from this I discerned 6 characteristics about the way they were engaging with their followers:
1) Liberal use of great photographs
Due to their work they have a wide array of beautiful photographs of happy people all over Africa. Here are a couple of examples:
Or my own personal favorite, as I think it is in my home country, Zimbabwe and I wore an almost identical uniform in high school:
In addition to the obvious attraction of such powerful images, these are even more successful on mobile devices as they push other content to the periphery of the screen, thus making the follower more likely to concentrate on this content.
2) Difference in text sizes
When they post a tweet that they really feel needs attention, they use a larger font size to make it stand out:
3) Liberal use of quotes from famous and relevant people:
By using the names to catch the eye of the followers, they can extend their own reach:
4) Use of quizzes
Everyone loves a quiz and this makes you engage at a much deeper level than just scanning a screed of tweets.
5) Timing and Pacing
The timing and pacing of their tweets was variable, but I could discern a definite pattern. They would go for a few days with only one or two tweets a day, and then have one day where there would be an excess of 8 or 9. Clearly the best time and pace to post to reach a relevant audience is information that is crucial to a successful twitter strategy for your organization. Thanks to Zach, we all now know about the tools available to gather this information.
6) Mixing it up
Rather than tweeting a strict diet of doom and gloom, Camfed mixes it up and after (of before) they give tweet on disturbing subjects such as FGM or child marriage…
….they tweet something interesting or positive about one of the countries in which they work.
On a personal note, discerning some sort of pattern in the torrent of tweets has made me feel that I have a form of life-jacket to help me stay afloat. While I do not see myself ever becoming a dedicated twitter consumer, I do feel that I may be able to successfully navigate an effective strategy as a producer of content to feed the the maw of Mosi-oa-Tunya.