Twitter and Facebook, will they change the way we connect and communicate?

It’s now been around six weeks since I began with Facebook and Twitter to see how it can be used to connect and share with others.

I wasn’t really over aware of the full variety of social media available and how it can support and benefit non profit organisations until I played the Social Media Game earlier this year. We played the game at a a workshop at the UK Circuit Rider Conference back in January. The session was led by David Wilcox and Beth Kanter, and I also met Nick Booth who runs the excellent Podnosh.

Since that event, I’ve used the game myself in several instances with working with groups that want to venture into different ways of connecting and communicating using social media, it’s a great tool to use.

So it was another one of those “practice what you preach” times. It felt high time for me to venture into Facebook and Twitter.
I didn’t really get the purpose of Twitter at first before signing up and starting to get involved more. In the beginning I followed a random set of people, seeing how they used it. It was abit like SMS overload, then bit by bit I began to see how others were using it to connect with their supporters or regular readers. Even one charity sent a daily reminder to remind people of their campaign to prevent breast cancer. Some users use it as a promotional tool, announcing when their organisation had some new news to share.

A few weeks ago, Beth Kanter sent a message to her Twitter friends about her campaign to raise funds to get to Cambodia. Amazingly, within not very much time at all, she had fundraised all she needed, and more.
In her post where Beth talks about fundraising using Twitter she makes some useful points:

“Stepping back from this, note that I’ve been using Twitter now for almost a year, have made friends with people I know and have met face-to-face, plus others that may be blog readers or connected with via Twitter. I follow them and write responses. So, you can’t just go into a web 2.0 site and scream show me the money.”

So, how do I use Twitter? I’ve been steadily becoming more confident with it, and not always posting random ‘tweets’ as they are known about exactly what I am doing, but used it often to ask questions and to respond to others and to update when I’m doing some tech support with a group. We can bounce suggestions and ideas off quickly without having to engage in deep conversation or email. I’m connected with people in the US, Australia and UK.
Twitterific in action You can either use twitter in your web browser or through your mobile phone. As I’m not big on mobile phones (we have virtually no reception in my village!) I did use Twitter on SMS for a few days, but just for testing it out. I have a Mac computer, so I installed a nice little piece of software that displays my ‘tweets’ and my followers messages. It’s called Twitterific, and without it, I probably wouldn’t use Twitter hardly at all. It’s always there floating at the side of my screen, and lets me know when someone I follow has sent a message. You can respond directly to the other person too with Twitter which has been really useful in many cases where I’ve been using it to ask questions and respond to others.

With Facebook, I’ve managed to connect with people that I already knew and had met at events and conferences and met new people too. I’ve joined various nptech and social media groups and been able to write and discuss with others too. Even a few old friends from past times have found me there, which has been good.

I’d love to have the time to connect more with groups and networking especially with Facebook. But like any form of social networking, it all requires time, often of which is in short supply. Facebook has the potential of being a really useful discussion and connection tool for many non profit organisations and charities over here in the UK.

As I became more involved with the processes of using Facebook and Twitter, I began to wonder if they will affect the way we communicate? Also how can these forms of networking be used effectively by non profit organisations? How much are we using it here in the UK?
I’ve been watching Twitter especially being used in some really innovative ways with groups in the US and Australia, so why, were there not many people using it actively over here?

I decided to do some research. I contacted a wide range of people I knew through networks here in the UK, and asked if they were using Twitter or Facebook. Interestingly, Twitter wasn’t really seen as a useful tool. One person thought it could have a use at a grass roots neighbourhood level to enable community action. Some of the people I asked liked Facebook to be able to connect to interest groups and have virtual meetings. Finally, a couple of people didn’t see much purpose to it all.

Well, if you are here in the UK, and not yet convinced about Twitter or Facebook whether it would be beneficial to you or your organisation, here are some interesting articles for you to read listed below.

My only final note about Twitter especially, it can be addictive. It’s fast and fun. Just after I began experimenting with it, Holly from NTEN (the Nonprofit Technology Empowerment Network) began with Twitter too. Like me she became quite attached to it, and you can read her affliction or is it affection with Twitter in her article on 21 days with twitter.

You are welcome to enter my Twitter and Facebook world and see what it’s like. I can be found on Twitter under the name LittleLaura, and on Facebook as Laura Whitehead. I look forward to meeting you there.

Updated August 07 : Beth Kanter delivers a great post on twitter and facebook in the nonprofit sector on the netsquared blog.

Updated Sept 07: Testing and trialling different applications for twitter…now using Tweet-r, can increase font sizes and helps with usability.

Filed under Nptech, Social Media, Tech.