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Dog's TrustA Twitter account is free to set up, and keeping it updated doesn't need to take too much time and effort, so some charities are now making to use the site for fundraising and increasing awareness of their causes.

In the UK, I have found Twitter accounts for Oxfam, War Child, Greenpeace, though there may be others. One charity making excellent use of Twitter for promoting its cause is Dog's Trust.

I've been asking Alex Goldstein, the charity's social media and community editor, about Dog's Trust's use of Twitter and her tips for other charities....

How long has Dog's Trust been Twittering?

Dogs Trust has been using Twitter since April 2008, when I joined the team. Although my job title is Web Editor as I help maintain our websites, my primary role is maintaining and developing relationships with supporters through social media.

Why did you decide to use it?

It was partly instinctive – I came from a pro-blogging background and couldn’t think of not using it – and partly because I expected to be able to find a greater range of people to talk to. That expectation was borne out by practice as our ‘followers’ (and followees, so to speak!) are a wonderful mixture of supporters, social media evangelists, fellow charities sharing ideas and people who have come across us accidentally and like what we do. It makes for some very good, useful conversation.

How successful has it been it terms of raising awareness, attracting donations and finding homes for dogs?

The answer to this all depends on how you measure success. To us, it’s been very valuable. People are increasingly coming to us for advice on obtaining or caring for dogs and we’re able to give that or direct them to where they can find it; that’s certainly part of our job description.

We are also able to build enthusiasm in new supporters who hadn’t heard of us before. And, best of all, we were able to rehome a dog.

Any examples of this?

Yes! Here’s the dog rehoming story. Just this week we gave away some calendars and diaries to a handful of the first followers to reply, and in return got several spontaneous donations and a brand new dog sponsor. 

Traffic to our blog has increased because of the links from Twitter and we’ve even been able to attract the attention of the odd celebrity (Just yesterday, Jonathan Ross donated tickets for his TV show to Dogs Trust through Twitter).

Like most social media marketing, Twitter provides more of a drip feed than a flood, but it remains consistent and grows steadily. Many charities can pull off a one-off successful campaign; it’s maintaining long term awareness-building and advocacy that is the slower but ultimately crucial everyday work.

Does using Twitter require much effort in the way of time and resources?

Because Dogs Trust had planned to have one person responsible for all social networks, etc, Twitter doesn’t really take up very much time. Of all the networks it’s the easiest to maintain as it takes seconds to do what you need to do and even with all the replies, adding followers etc it probably accounts for no more than twenty minutes of each day.

If a charity were going to use any social network, this is the one that provides the most instant response and takes the least time to maintain.  Because people will always see your reply, you’re more likely to have a longer, more meaningful conversation with them than if you, say, write on a wall on a Facebook page (though that has a different, important value too); ironic given the 140 character limit!

Would you recommend Twitter to other charities? Any useful tips?

Oh yes, absolutely.  The only tip that really matters to my mind is to be authentic. Have a name, a personality, and a sense of humour. Guide the conversation so that you have a comfortable, productive balance of professional posts (links, campaign info etc) and personal moments.

People don’t follow a mailshot, but they do follow a person who also happens to tell them about some important work that’s of interest to them. You’re in someone’s virtual living room online and you have to treat that as their personal space.

Do you also use other social media, blogs, Facebook etc to promote the charity? 

We certainly do; Dog's Trust has its own blog, as well as accounts and pages on MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Flickr, as well as a channel on YouTube.

Graham Charlton

Published 6 February, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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William Corke

Thanks for the timely post - I hadn't seen the Dog's Trust work, which is interesting.

Other UK charities I've spotted who are active on Twitter include:

   RSPB @natures_Voice

   @CPRE

   @BritishRedCross

   @V_and_A

   @unicef_uk

   @amnestyuk

And there are many others.  A lot of (all?) what they are doing is very experimental, and the approaches vary widely from a 'corporate comms information release' at one extreme, to a personal diary at the other.  We're working with a number of our charity clients on strategies in this space.

almost 8 years ago

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Howard Lake

Thanks for the interview with Alex, Graham. Yes, @dogstrust are definitely one of the leading examples of a UK charity exploring how Twitter can be used in a variety of ways, from fundraising, to customer service, campaigning, collaboration, and project support e.g. rehoming dogs.

@bullyinguk also deserve praise for their work with Twitter.

There are a growing number of UK charities using Twitter, and those of us who are active in this area ("us" includes charities, consultants, agencies, journalists etc) held our first nfptweetup meeting in London in November 2008:

http://www.fundraising.co.uk/blog/2008/11/25/report-uk039s-first-nfptweetup

One worrying element that I flagged up at that meeting was the large number of charities who had not even registered their name on Twitter. I read out a list of the top 20 charities (by voluntary income) and showed which of them had not registered their name on Twitter.

Luckily we encouraged many of them to do so, otherwise they might have found themselves in the same position that so many charities did in the late 90s when they failed to register appropriate domain names.

So, as always, the voluntary sector is displaying a mix of innovative embrace of new technology plus some slow, wariness towards it.

The more that organisations like @dogstrust are highlighted the better, so thank you.

almost 8 years ago

Jacqui O'Beirne

Jacqui O'Beirne, Digital Manager at Dogs TrustSmall Business

Hi as the Digital Marketing Manger at Dogs Trust (and Alex's manager) I am pleased that all our hard work is being recognised. Trying to persuade not overly tech savvy management that the need to employ someone just to 'sit on the internet' all day was a valid one was the hardest task. Once we had Alex in place the rest has been easy, its a slow process and not an instant fix for anyone, but we have been active for around nine months and as you see above have had our successes.

You need to know why you are on Twitter and other networks, not just be there for the sake of it. Not everything we have done has worked. We are often asked what our strategy is - and the honest truth, we don't have one (unless you count 'Don't ask for money'). But we have common sense and the knowledge of how all these sites work on a personal level and are able to use that knowledge on a proffessional one. If you don't use these sites day to day yourself, then you won't do it sucessfully for your business or charity.

Jacqui

almost 8 years ago

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Craig McGill

Good article. The National Trust for Scotland charity is also on Twitter for the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and can be found @ayrshirebard - it even used the Burns' Supper events last month to carry out a fundraising drive.

almost 8 years ago

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Marble Host

Hi,

Thanks for the info great article. Thanks for sharing with us. Nice

almost 8 years ago

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Mark

Charities are still getting involved with Twitter but it is a suprise how many aren't yet! Check out The Hunger Project - they have started a great campaign highlighting their work in Africa during the World Cup.

over 6 years ago

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Oyster charity marketing

Twitter is a great tool for charities, but a twitter account is for life, not just for Christmas (sorry!). There's nothing worse than an under-user account or inconsistent use. It's an investment and one that will pay off in time.

over 4 years ago

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