In a recent post, we discussed the value of municipalities using Twitter to communicate with their residents, particularly about events or construction projects. Here are some tips and tools for communicating effectively and multiplying your municipality’s messages.
1. Use Up to Two Hashtags in Your Tweets – Using a hashtag means putting a # symbol in front of a word or a term without spaces, which is pertinent to the information conveyed in your tweet. This enables you to organize your information around a given topic. A hashtag also makes it easy for others interested in the same topic to find you and raises the potential of your tweet being read, commented on or shared by at least 35% .*
There are many established hashtags, such as those for specific sectors, events or municipalities like #Mississauga. You can also create a unique hashtag for a specific project. But before you make up a hashtag, do a Twitter Search to see if it is being used already and how or check the Hashtag Dictionary. If another community is using it to convey a different meaning, use meaningful variation. When creating a hashtag containing more than one word, capitalize the first letter of each for clarity and to avoid undesirable interpretations. To learn more about Hashtags, check this Complete Guide from Internet Media Labs.
2. Include Photos or Hyperlinks in Your Tweets – When you add a photo or insert a hyperlink to a website/page for more detailed information in your tweet, you lose a few of the allotted 140 characters per tweet. But this loss is more than made up by the increased probability someone will read, reply to or share your tweet if it contains a photo or URL link. Photos are a great way to link events from the offline world with your online presence. Where possible, try to link to third-party news articles and other websites, not just yours, and use http://www.bit.ly.com to shorten hyperlinks.
3. Flatter Others and Share Their Tweets – One of the keys of social media is interacting with others in a positive way and building goodwill. As in the offline world, often the onus is on you to make the first move by posting a tweet about something that interests your followers that’s not necessarily about your city, town, region, department or project. You can post something new, such how to stay safe in an upcoming storm, or share a tweet from one of your followers that may appeal to your audience. You share by retweeting (RT) that is repeating someone else’s tweet verbatim or in a modified tweet (MT) by substituting words or shortening text, while retaining the meaning. Stratford, Ontario, does this particularly well in its Twitterfeed (@StratfordON).
4. Use Reply to Encourage Support – Once you have earned the goodwill of some of your followers, use ‘Reply’ (by starting with their Twitter handle and the @ sign) to tell select followers about a tweet and ask them to please retweet or RT it. Just be sure you are using reply and not a direct message, which can be intrusive, and don’t do it too often. You can also use reply to highlight one of your tweets to a specific Twitter handle that might have a high interest in it, in the hope they might share it.
5. Feature Members of Your Community in Your Tweets – When possible, ‘tag’ or include the Twitter Handles of employees, politicians, celebrities or residents between the words within your tweets but avoid starting the tweet with a twitter handle or @ sign (as not everyone will see it). Being inclusive in this way will peak the curiosity of those featured and may even foster long-term engagement. If you can’t avoid starting with a handle, insert a period in front of it.
6. Keep Your Tweets Succinct and Shareable – Try to make your tweets 120 characters or less, so you allow enough space to make it easy for others to retweet them and ideally add a short comment of their own.
7. Vary But Repeat Key Tweets Several Times – To maximize the reach of important messages, re issue them up to four times (as former former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki recommends), four to eight hours apart, but vary the text slightly so they don’t all look the same. Also, be sure to tweet other messages between these key tweets.
Developing strategies, tips and training to help municipalities communicate through Twitter and other social media channels, along with traditional ways, is a service we offer. Contact us, if you would like to learn how we can help you.
*Optimizing Twitter Engagement – Tweet Content That Works, Social Media Today, October 10, 2012
Leslie Hetherington is Communications Director at Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited. She is an award-winning, Accredited PR Practitioner (APR) and a past president of the Toronto chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. Leslie’s project experience includes integrated communications planning and implementation through traditional and online channels for diverse mandates, from managing reputations to stimulating economic development in Canada’s North. Skills include stakeholder and media relations, social media marketing, website development, event management and copy writing.