Twitter has been a major player in social media ever since it first launched 10 years ago. And despite its recent growth challenges, the platform has revolutionized the way we all communicate with the world (after all, the "hashtag" was a result of users trying to organize similar tweets to make filtering through content easier!).
But the question for animal rescuers (with a lot already on their plate) is, is Twitter worth my time? Sure, you can't really spend too much time on a tweet, after all you only get 140 characters to express your message. But with Facebook and Instagram comprising the majority of your social media bandwidth, not to mention public databases like Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet, 140 characters can sometimes feel like 1,400.
In spite of rescuers' tight time constraints however, we believe, based on our past year working with and talking to over 100 animal rescuers, that Twitter still holds value for your organization, for 2 reasons.
#1. Twitter is still one of the quickest ways to comb through a lot of info from writers you admire or topics you care about
At the very least, following people in the space (animal welfare leaders, pet-tech companies, or fun content producers like BarkBox) allows you to digest a lot of content in a very short amount of time.
Chances are that, every morning if you pull up Twitter and spend just 2 minutes scrolling through it, you'll likely learn something or find a topic to explore in more detail later.
Here's an example from our Twitter feed. If we find articles we like, we open the link (details on how to do that below), bookmark them, and then come back to read later. We've actually learned about a lot of interesting companies and even met some people by discovering them on Twitter and then reaching out.
#2. Twitter is great for live-updates and 'urgent' information (in 'rescue speak' it's well-suited for fundraising events and requesting emergency help)
Because there are so many tweets that are written each day, the lifespan of content on Twitter seems to be much shorter than traditional news channels. For this reason, Twitter is a great platform when you want to post real-time updates and/or if you have something extremely relevant/topical to say.
For example, we helped our rescue partner Mr. Bones & Co with the social media for their annual fundraiser, Rescue the Runway. As part of that work we wanted to bring the event to life for those who couldn't be there in person. One way we did that was to provide short updates through Twitter. We tweeted about 2-3x an hour. Here's what the feed looked like:
Along with live updates, Twitter can be used (though we hope it doesn't have to be used this way) to send out a notice to followers about emergency situations, such as a natural disaster that disrupts your rescue's operations or petitions you want signed that are extremely relevant and have an important deadline to them.
The recent #Louisianaflood disaster showed the power of Twitter for animal rescuers, with people using the site to connect people to their animals, raise funds for rescuers in the field, and in general raise awareness about the situation. When we searched the #Louisianaflood hashtag, tweets like the following appeared:
If you're still NOT convinced Twitter is worth your time, then we'll just call out one more thing.
You never know who might find out about your rescue on Twitter versus other social channels. (Who knows, maybe there is a big donor out there who is very active on Twitter but not so much on Facebook). Because it's so easy to connect your Facebook account to Twitter, and push the content through, we suggest that, at the very least, just create a Twitter profile even if you NEVER intend to tweet from it.
After you hook up with your Facebook account to your Twitter profile (just go to https://www.facebook.com/twitter) your Twitter feed will automatically be populated with your Facebook content. The only difference between what the post looks like when published on Twitter is that FB will need to shorten your content to fit the Twitter 140 character limit, and a link will be provided to the rest of it, as in the below. What do you have to lose?
Now, if we have convinced you that Twitter is, in fact, worth your time, then you'll need to set up your profile:
1. Register on Twitter (website or app) and create your username. In this case, we recommend using a profile name you would be comfortable with people seeing. In other words, if you intend to use Twitter mostly to gather info, probably just set up a personal account. But if you intend to use Twitter as a social media outlet for your rescue then use your rescue's name.
2. Pick your avatar, or the picture that will show up in the Twitter feed. The default profile picture is an egg, but since you likely have lots of cute photos of animals in your rescue, consider using your rescue logo or a picture of a rescue dog. Like Facebook and Instagram you can change your profile picture and cover photo as often as you like.
3. Write your bio. If you're signing up on behalf of your rescue then your bio is key because it tells the world who you are. Make sure what you write reflects your rescue's brand as well as what appears on other outlets. In other words, don't call yourself a 'cat' rescue on Facebook but a 'kitten rescue' on Twitter. Be consistent.
4. Pick a background picture. This will appear on the top of your page and completes the personalization and overall look of your profile
And then you're done! So now what?
Once you've created an account, Twitter will present you with several accounts to follow (it's kind of like magic). Twitter will also ask to search through your contacts and, if you allow it to, will find your contacts who are on Twitter and ask if you'd like to connect (similar to how Facebook auto-suggests friends for you to make).
To find new people to follow, just keep searching based on keywords and hashtags. For example, use #animal rescue or #dog to filter results. Also go to the profiles of top organizations like the ASPCA or Best Friends to see who they are following.
Once you have something and someone to follow, engage with them and/or their content. There's a bunch of ways to do this, broken down below:
1. The Reply Arrow. Sometimes you might see a tweet that you want to respond to. In that case, click the backwards arrow button and write back. Twitter automatically puts the person's profile in the tweet (so they will get alerted that you commented on their content) and then start typing. Here's what happens if you hit the arrow:
2. The square arrow box, or the 'retweet' symbol. A retweet is when you re-post someone else's tweet, whether it's a link they posted or a picture. Once you hit the retweet sign you'll be prompted to add a comment (if you want) and then just hit retweet to make it live, like this:
3. The heart button. Pretty self explanatory but click the heart if you want to respond positively to the content.
4. The ellipse (or ...) symbol: This button releases a list of options, including the ability to send a message directly to the tweet author, to copy the tweet, block the user, etc.
Overall, using Twitter is pretty straightforward. As mention, you have a limit of 140 characters per tweet, so the key to tweeting is to be direct and concise. Note that you can (and should in most cases) add a bunch of different content like pictures, gifs, and statistics but these will affect your word count. But no worries, if you can't fit everything in one tweet, you can send multiple ones! (It's not like Instagram where to many posts in a day can upset your followers)
Remember to use hashtags like #rescue or #animal to make your content more easily searchable (we covered hashtags in a previous article). This way, every time someone looks up that hashtag, your tweet will be within this category, and this will increase the likelihood of people checking out your content on your twitter feed.
Do you need some help setting up Twitter or tweaking your other social platforms?Just reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll help you!