Editor’s Note: In October 2023, we returned to this post to see how our recommendations held up after the first year of “X”. A year later, we still offer these as recommendations for most nonprofits, and have adding some 2023 considerations at the end of this post.
By now you’ve most certainly heard of Elon Musk’s takeover of the social media platform formerly known as Twitter last year, and in the subsequent melodrama, many of you may have probably paused to consider your organization’s engagement on the platform – and possibly remind yourself how to log back into your account.
And no doubt many of you who manage your organization’s social media accounts will have a conversation in the next week with your executive director wherein they will casually ask, “Hey, what are we doing on Twitter these days?”
So before you get “develop a new successful Twitter strategy” thrown on your plate, we want to offer you some encouragement and send a reminder that most nonprofits do not need to actively maintain a presence on Twitter.
Where to spend your time online
Don’t get us wrong: we strongly encourage you to engage with audiences on social media. It’s an invaluable tool for communicating. However, given the limited capacity of many nonprofits, we would advise you to focus on platforms that expose you to much broader audiences, especially Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
According to Pew Research Center, just 23% of American adults use Twitter. By contrast, Facebook is used by nearly 70%.
Elected officials, policy professionals, journalists, and members of the media, however, overwhelmingly favor the platform, which is why Twitter drama gets amplified into our national discourse and why we’re so often led to believe that most of us are supposed to care about what’s happening there.
But for most nonprofits, it’s just not worth the time invested.
Twitter’s pros and cons
So why might you want to use Twitter?
There are definitely a few instances when Twitter has been a reliable tool for nonprofits. If your organization engages in legislative advocacy, if you’re plugged into policymaking or academic research, or if high-profile earned media is an essential part of your communications strategy, then you should be on Twitter. (Not sure what your communications strategy is? We can help with that!)
Remember though that these are trade-offs. Take for example earned media: Twitter has been a great resource for connecting with journalists, following their interests and beats, and discovering which organizations end up quoted in their stories. Spending time on Twitter can help you hone the perfect pitch that becomes the best headline you’ll receive all year.
But getting there takes so much time and energy.
You have to continuously feed the beast with new content and posts so that your organization shows up in the feeds of journalists and you have to continuously scan the platform to see where conversations are headed. This is certainly the case for many social media platforms, but again, you’ll very likely see better returns engaging on other platforms.
How to evaluate your Twitter presence
Let’s talk briefly about how to evaluate your organization’s performance on the platform.
First, take a step back and assess the return you’re seeing. How are your posts doing in terms of generating likes, retweets, and follows? Are they getting meaningful engagement at all? More importantly, do you see traffic from Twitter on your website, and is it generating email sign-ups, event registrations, donations, etc.?
Next, think about how you personally interact with the platform. Do you regularly scroll through Twitter to check the news or is it an after thought? Do you craft posts specifically for Twitter or are you copying them between platforms as part of your social media spray-and-pray?
You might be doing great, and if so, congratulations! Consider presenting at your next nonprofit conference and share what your doing and why it’s working.
But if you have no evidence to substantiate that you’re seeing positive results, it’s probably time to disengage from the platform. And if you pull up your organization’s page only to see no one has posted to in in 3-4 years, it’s definitely time to disengage.
Best practices for hibernating your account
We’re not saying you should log in one last time to delete the whole thing. The truth is, no one knows the future of any social media platform and five years from now, it may be the place to be. Hibernating your account is the right move, especially if you control a good handle for your organization or have the name directly (such as @BoldBison).
Here are a few steps to take before going into hibernation:
- Block a few hours on a Friday afternoon for this because you’ll need a little time.
- Feel free to delete your old posts – years old content is irrelevant. But, as you read through old posts, make note of ones that generated particularly high engagement and see if there is any reason why it performed so well. Was it retweeted by a popular account, did it have a good photo or caption, did you tag other accounts?
- Be sure to copy down any compelling messages or captions you see and download any good photos you don’t already have saved.
- Check the accounts you’re following and make sure you’re not following anyone who’s a red flag (they might have been fine years ago and have since… drifted).
- Once everything is cleaned up, edit the account’s bio to let followers know that you’re taking a break, that they can find you on other platforms, and that they can sign up for your newsletter on your website. Add your website URL and logo, so folks know this is your organization’s official account.
Remember: you’re the expert
So, we at Bold Bison give you permission to disengage from Twitter if it’s the right call for your organization. Please understand that we’re not anti-Twitter, per se, nor are we inherently pro-Meta platforms. We just approach this from a pragmatic cost-benefit perspective and we encourage you to do the same.
You only have so much capacity, and too often, the latest fads and trends become a distraction that keeps us from focusing our time on what’s effective and what’s most likely to help us actually articulate our message.
Most of all, if this comes up, don’t forget that you’re the communications expert in the room.
And we at Bold Bison are always happy to back you up on that.
Updated: 2023 Considerations
In the year since the Twitter drama began, the social media landscape has shifted in some noteworthy ways. For starters, Twitter became X and Meta launched Threads.
Yet despite several attempts in early 2023, the predicted mass exodus from Twitter didn’t happen. Academic research, political advocacy, and “news” still happen on the platform, so if you are engaged in any of those areas, we stand by our recommendation to keep a measured presence on the platform.
And despite the inordinate free media it received when it launched in July, nobody uses Threads. You don’t need to worry about it.
However, the noticeable drop in engagement on all social media platforms is a bigger trend to watch. As platforms shift their algorithms to place more paid and promoted content in your feed (and less of your actual friends and connections), people are tuning out—and logging out.
Looking ahead to 2024, an election year will only make things more volatile online. We can’t rely on social media the same way we have for most of the past two decades. Bold Bison firmly recommends that you begin to evaluate ways to step back from the burden of social media management and begin developing strategies to reconnect with your audiences offline.
Curious About the Latest in Social Media Management?
Join Bold Bison for a free webinar on Tuesday, October 24. Shouting into the Void explores some of the reasons why your social media strategy probably isn’t working the same way it used to and creates space for you to think about the big picture of rebuilding connection with audiences in a post-social media landscape.
Learn more and register…