When Nightline covers a topic, it's safe to say it's hit the mainstream.  Therefore, Twitter, on Nightline this past Wednesday has reached the public consciousness, albeit tepidly. 

Even Nightline seems to have misgivings.  While one host, Terry Moran has amassed a very respectable following of 28,617 people (as of this writing) on Twitter, Martin Bashir seemed proud to announce that he doesn't Twitter.  Despite his apparent antipathy, Twitter has racked up six million users as measured by Complete.com, a website that follows such things.

Taking a step back to explain, Twitter is a micro-blogging platform.  Users publish very short missives, of up to 140 characters, and these are displayed for other users who have signed up to receive them.  You can "tweet," as it's called, from twitter.com, from your cellphone, and applications on your computer.  (Here's a guide to get started if you're interested.)

Twitter prompts you with its question "What are you doing?"  This leads many to publish inane details of their life but others ignore the question and use it to disseminate information.  This is where Twitter's utility might lie for nonprofits.  Twitter has become a way to get news from traditional sources, from individual journalists, from political parties and politicians, and from charities and advocacy groups.*

The goal, of course, is to get your message through the din.  We are inundated with so much information, the hope is that if users choose to receive your "tweets," they will pay more attention to the message you're trying to get out.  Conversely, if they signed up for your messages, you're likely preaching the choir.  Also, as with anything on the web, people expect content and you have to work on continually disseminating engaging content.

Now that we're all on the same page, here's a list of nonprofits that Twitter.  So, the $64,000 question is: should a nonprofit Twitter?

We'll explore further in an upcoming blog post, but for now leave your thoughts in the comments.

*There's also a social networking aspect to Twitter, which partly explains the melodrama of the Nightline video and their talk of "touching the mind of the universe."  This is the subject for another day but David Pogue, technology writer at the New York Times would love to tell you more in the meanwhile.


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