what is twitter anyway?

We hear this question from our clients a lot. What is Twitter? Why should I use it? How will it help my ministry? There are many Twitter experts like Laura Fitton (@Pistachio) for one. A few of my favorite non-profits using Twitter are Phoenix Rescue Mission (@phxmission), Miriam’s Kitchen (@miriamskitchen) and Helen Ross, Executive Director of NTEN (@ntenhross). Plus there are are many articles that will tell you how best to use Twitter. I’ve included a couple of my most recent favorites at the bottom of this post.

In spite of all this information, the idea of Twitter is still too technical, too overwhelming for some.

Simply put, Twitter today is like the Community Reader Board of yesterday. And I might add that in our community, it’s not so “yesterday” at all.

Our local grocery store has been a central and thriving part of our community for more than 50 years. And so has their reader board. In the initial years, the reader board mostly had notices of specials. Like “Bananas 19¢ lb.” or “Bread 2 for $1” Now this reader board is rarely advertising a sale. It is almost always touting someone in the community or announcing an upcoming event. We took this photo yesterday.

Community Reader Board

So…while not everyone knows or understands Twitter, most everyone knows about reader boards. You’ve seen them in front of schools, stores, theaters, etc. for years. And essentially, this is what Twitter is. And like a reader board, you have a limited amount of space (characters) to communicate your message. And like a reader board, it’s very public.

Sure it can advertise your latest “sale.” But it can also help you tell about things happening in your “community” — you can give kudos to a volunteer, to a cherished guest, to a special child. You can tell about upcoming events and ways your ministry is working. You can connect with others in your space. You can hang out and have a conversation — you can tell people what you saw on someone else’s reader board. “Hey are you going to the charity benefit concert? I saw they’re having one this Saturday over at the Grange Hall…”

What do you think? Does this make sense to you? Does this reader board perspective change your view of Twitter?

Also, as promised here are a couple of recent articles on Twitter. Check them out if you want to read some of the leading thinking.

finding your “brand voice” posted over at Mashable
– how to blend both your “personal and professional” voices posted yesterday on CIO.com

And finally, you can follow us on Twitter, too. We’re @oneicity and we’d love to have you be part of our “community.”


Kris Hoots
Partner, Oneicity


(photo credits: Steve Thomas)

Kris Hoots

Kris Hoots

5 thoughts on “what is twitter anyway?”

  1. Wow! I just read parts of this blog to Carleigh, my Social Media uber-maven. She was blown away by the analogy of the Reader Board. So was I. This really nails it! I struggled trying to figure out what Twitter was for months, then just plunged in started using it. Now I get it. And can’t live without it!

  2. Twitter is awesome once you figure out how to tap into it. I’ve made so many connections with all different people on behalf of Phoenix Rescue Mission using @phxmission. If you’re not on Twitter for your nonprofit, you probably should be. It’s the easiest & quickest way to share information with people who want to know more about what you do & to hear what they’re interested in too. Thanks for mentioning us, Kris!

  3. @Al: thanks for your encouragement! If this analogy resonates with Carleigh, that is quite a compliment! Looking forward to seeing what you guys do with this analogy in your niche.

    @Donna Sue: Your continued support means the world to us. If only we could patent our thoughts… our point here is to share and help others understand. So feel free to share away!

    @Debra: Nice to finally “meet” you! Thanks for stopping by! Your use of Twitter for Phoenix Rescue Mission is spot on. We agree that Twitter is a wonderful connecting medium for ministries — from the initial handshake and “how do you do?” to the “hey, I know you” sorts of conversations you can have with good friends.

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