Making sense of the tsunami: 6 ways to make your tweets rise above the torrent


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:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 11.36.12 AM


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:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 11.41.51 AM


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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 11.45.11 AM

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…

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 1.04.16 PM



….they tweet something interesting or positive about one of the countries in which they work.


Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 1.08.44 PM



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.



11 thoughts on “Making sense of the tsunami: 6 ways to make your tweets rise above the torrent

  1. Rachel, thanks for the content and the images; beautiful country. This week I have ben wondering about the shorthand on Twitter and how long it takes to learn the unique language. Is there a “Twictionary” or does it just take time. I also wonder if Tumblr will take over because of the more liberal use of images.

    • Yes, Randall – I think that I was really put off by the language of twitter. When I scan through the list of tweets I have on my homepage a lot of it looks like nonsense to me! I think there was a time when the younger generation were attracted to Tumblr for exactly the reason you state. But at the moment it seems like Instagram is gaining more traction, if my son and his friends are anything to go by.

  2. Really well written post and I enjoyed that you also shared about a cause that was personal to you. I learned a lot about Camfed as a bonus, as well as your high school uniform!

  3. First, very nice picture of Mosi-oa-Tunya Falls! Second, I love the content. I can identify with not necessarily wanting to be a “dedicated twitter consumer.” I am more afraid of saying something wrong that people will see 5 to 10 years from now. That is one of the reasons I stay away from social media. Anyhow, nice very blog. 🙂

  4. Great post! I agree with every bit of your advice on making your “tweets rise above the torrents.” I personally spoke about attention grabbers, Nicely done!

  5. Rachel — this was such a well done post. I think you hit the nail on the head with what makes some twitter posts much more interesting. Two things in particular stood out. One was the use of bright, colorful imagery. The other was the judicious use of tweets. Today WHO flooded my feed with too many tweets — I felt overwhelmed and annoyed. A few a day (not a few a minute) is the best approach!

  6. My favorite post this week. I loved how you put it all together and showed how twitter can really be used in public health. I do believe the same as you do, the steps they took on how to provide an array of different posts is what makes the organization sustainably interesting. If we post the same thing in the same way people lose attention and the results would be the same as the post.. BORING… thank you Rachel!

  7. I learned so much from your post, Rachel, including the fact that you went to school in Zimbabwe. Thanks for your liberal use of images as well. It was really good to see an actual example of how a strategic and impact-focused organization uses Twitter.

  8. I love how you used CamFed to demonstrate your points! Your analysis really helped me to learn about the organization as well as features that help them stand out in social media. Thanks for the tips!

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