In this ongoing series on using social media as an association, we’ve covered best practices for your association Facebook page, and we plan to cover LinkedIn, Google+ and other networks in future posts. Today, we tackle one of the most common social platforms, and one of the easiest (and most fun) to use: Twitter.

While increasingly as common as Facebook as a “go to” channel for those starting out with social media, Twitter is quite different from its (much) larger cousin, and requires a different set of best practices. Read on to learn how you can leverage your association’s Twitter account to your best advantage while informing and interacting with your members.

Similar to Facebook, frequent updates alone are not enough to keep your Twitter followers interested.

Make The Most Of Your Characters – Twitter is more versatile than Facebook in many ways, but it is also more limited. While it’s fun to use the photo features Twitter offers, it’s not an eminently visual medium in the same way as other social networks are. And with limited characters, your words must be used wisely. One of the best ways to ensure a steady flow of content to your Twitter page is planning. While spontaneity and rapid response to inquiries or breaking news is a must, it also is a good idea to keep some “evergreen” content at the ready and schedule updates to ensure your page is fresh every day. Plan out a Twitter editorial calendar each week. This way, you can use most of your time crafting responses to follower questions or commentary on the latest news as you post it in real time, but will also have plenty of updates to keep your feed interesting on the “slow news days”. Also, be sure to vary your content a bit with links and images, and develop hash tags for common themes, calls to action, or important events.

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Twitter pic 2Be Responsive and Helpful – Twitter is known for its real-time engagement between brands, businesses and the general public. Many people have reported success in dealing with customer service complaints via Twitter, and discovered their concerns were addressed faster and more easily than sitting on hold with customer service lines for hours on end. As this type of communication has grown, many Twitter users expect a rapid response to inquiries. Make sure to use the latest tools, such as Hootsuite, and monitor your Twitter account frequently. Respond to questions or comments from members quickly and with as much information as possible.

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Build Your Audience Now that you’ve established the right types of updates and content you should be flowing to your Twitter account, you might be asking the next logical question: what good will it do if we don’t have many followers? Some ways you can build your Twitter audience are:

  • Including the link to your Twitter page in of all your member communications (emails and even in snail-mail items)—you may even send out a special email communication specifically asking members to find and follow you on Twitter.
  • Additionally, be sure to prominently display your Twitter link on each page of your website.
  • Finally, if you have a larger audience at another social channel, such as Facebook,  cross-promote to make sure you’re reaching a larger audience.
  • You may also do some creative searching on Twitter—set up some monitoring user tools such as Hootsuite for key industry terms, your association name, and other relevant keywords. This way, you can find Twitter users you may want to follow, or respond to their Tweets suggesting they follow you as well to open the lines of communication.

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 Calls to Action – Once you’ve built a strong audience that includes plenty of members and are interacting with them on a regular basis, you can use this relationship to promote calls to action for your association. By blanketing social channels with this type of information, you can increase your responses by ensuring that a member who may delete an email unread or avoid Facebook on a certain day will still have a chance to see your post.

Some ways to use Twitter as a call to action include:

  • Post links and information to encourage registration at association events, such as conferences, webinars, and fundraisers.
  • Post specialized hash tags for your conferences or industry events and encourage followers to share.
  • Post a poll on important issues using any of the top Twitter polling tools, such as Twtpoll or PollDaddy.

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 Follow these guidelines, and your association’s Twitter audience will grow and consistently interact with, and share, your updates. Stay tuned for future posts with similar tips for other social media platforms, and soon your association will be a full- fledged social media rock star.