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Are You a Person or an Org on Twitter?

BY Allison Fine | Wednesday, February 25 2009

From A. Fine Blog.

There was a great post on the Chronicle’s website today about the use of Twitter by nonprofit organizations.

Great quotes from my Social Citizens blog pal Kari Dunnn Saratovsky at the Case Foundation and Beth (of course!) on the various ways that foundations and nonprofits are using Twitter to share news, raise money, organize events and generally connect with their supporters.

But one of the tips at the end of the article left me pondering. It said: Be professional. While for an animal-rights group blogging about vegan recipes may make sense, posting about how disappointed you were in last night’s episode of Lost probably doesn’t.

I’m not sure I agree with this. I do like my Twitter friends to focus mainly on their work and our shared passion for the various ways that social media are enhancing social change efforts. But one of the nicest things about Twitter is how easy it is to get to know someone in such short bursts of communication. I’ve learned that my old friend Ruby is pregnant, and my new friend Qui is moving to the Northwest. I hear about job openings, job woes, what people ate at their business dinner and who is stuck on the tarmac. I am getting to know my business contacts as real people, not as suits behind a desk.

Here’s the best way to see the difference. I am friends with Andy Carvin (who I’ve only met through email and Twitter!) through his personal Twitter account, he also writes the more formal NPR tweets. Andy tweets as a person, where he’s going today, what he’s reading, who he’s seeing, and what great stories are online at NPR.org or other sites that I should read. And I often do. But when his tweets behind the formal NPRpolitics logo show up I hardly ever read them. I’m not friends with a logo and I find them cold to look at on my screen.

So, I think I disagree with the advice that one should be professional on Twitter. I think you should be yourself - which is always the best thing to be anyway, right? You should use Twitter to its best advantage, meaning use it to help you to connect in meaningful ways with large numbers of people who care about you and your cause.