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Tweeting for Good: How to Host a Twitter Chat
November 7, 2013

(Tara Pringle Jefferson is the social media consultant for the Cleveland Foundation.)

Pringle-100Roughly four years ago, when I began managing the Cleveland Foundation's social media accounts, I was inundated with questions from other local nonprofits about how they could better manage their social media.

“It takes too much time. How can I streamline this?"

"I'm not sure what I'm doing."

"Can you help me figure out how to convince our CEO we should have a Facebook page?"

These nonprofit employees were really wondering how to tell their story efficiently. As a community foundation, the Cleveland Foundation saw this as an opportunity to help local nonprofits while also building awareness of philanthropy in greater Cleveland as these groups increased their own social media presence.

To that end, the foundation created monthly meet-ups, where a different nonprofit would host the meeting each time. Attendees would tour the facility, ask questions, and then have a mix-and-mingle where we discussed everything from editorial calendars to online fundraising strategies.

ClevelandFoundationTwitterThese meetings were well attended, with more than 20 nonprofits represented on average. Eventually, the approach shifted to an online format to better accommodate the busy schedules of our most loyal attendees.

Since early 2012, the Cleveland Foundation has met online for our #CLE4Good Twitter chats on the second Monday of every month. Co-hosted with the Foundation Center-Cleveland and local communications firm Ink+ LLC, we spend an hour discussing important topics with our nonprofit community, giving them an opportunity to share best practices on social media, fundraising, and much more. We often have a special guest join us to allow participants to hear from national experts without having to leave their work desk.

As the lead sponsor of these chats, the Cleveland Foundation’s main goal is to give local nonprofits the opportunity to share their stories and get advice about pressing issues. It is easy to forget that social media isn’t about “likes” and clicks; rather, it is about conversations and relationships with real people. These chats are another way for us to connect with the community we serve and to be a resource for those who carry the same desire to improve our region.

For foundations or other nonprofits thinking about creating a similar dialogue on social media, here are a few takeaways:

  • Make the chat accessible. Be sure to spell out exactly what the chat is, its topic, and step-by-step instructions on how to participate. We publish an instructional blog post before each chat so any newcomers so can quickly learn the ropes.
  • Invite a special guest. Thisensures that the chat will be vibrant and full of information, and it also gives participants a chance to ask an expert. We work to invite a special guest to participate whenever possible, to ensure that we're not simply speaking to an empty room. It also helps the conversation ramp up quickly.
  • Use the tools at your disposal to promote the chats. Write a blog post, put a quick blurb in your e-newsletter, or advertise the chat on your organization’s Facebook page. But also remember: a successful chat is the best promotion for the following chat.
  • Track your chats to see where you can improve. Using a site like TweetReach or a social media dashboard like Hootsuite can allow you to see at a glance who has participated and how many followers you have attracted.
  • Keep the momentum going. We encourage all of our participants to follow each other after the chat and continue their conversations. Several participants have thanked us for making these introductions, which reinforces our goal of strengthening the local nonprofit network.

For any nonprofits who are interested in seeing one of our #CLE4Good chats in action, follow @CleveFoundation and join us on November 11 at noon EST for a discussion on how nonprofits can improve their donor relationships, or on December 9 at Noon EST, topic to be determined.

-- Tara Pringle Jefferson



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  • Transparency Talk, the Glasspockets blog, is a platform for candid and constructive conversation about foundation transparency and accountability. In this space, Foundation Center highlights strategies, findings, and best practices on the web and in foundations–illuminating the importance of having "glass pockets."

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