TWITTER TIPS FOR JFSP REGIONAL CONSORTIA
Building your regional wildland fire science and management community in 140 characters or less
Marjie Brown | Science Writer | Social Media Community Manager Firescience.Gov @FirescienceGov @sciencefire firstname.lastname@example.org 801-971-8781
“Step up your social media. The public demands it”
– Tom Zimmerman Retired Program Manager Fire Management Research, Development and Application Program RMRS Closing Plenary / April 2012 Southwest Fire Ecology Conference Santa Fe, NM.
The social media landscape is an ever-expanding moving target that can be completely overwhelming. Because overwhelmed is already how we roll, it‟s important to carefully pick and choose our social media channels based on the realities of our workload and skills. Twitter is the social media platform for the overwhelmed. It has the fewest barriers to entry, the lowest time obligation, the fewest technical/skill requirements, and the easiest learning curve, while providing the potential to reach and influence the most stakeholders. If you do nothing else in the social mediasphere - get on Twitter.
What it is:
An essential component of a 21st century communications toolbox. The way to keep your finger on the real-time pulse of the rapidly growing, digitally savvy, smartphone/ tablet-toting component of the wildland fire science and management community. The place to be to put your work and knowledge on the radar of local and national media when they are casting about for experts.
What it isn’t:
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A substitute for face-to-face engagement and interaction. The place to reach everyone. A stand-alone communications solution.
What it does for your consortia:
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Increases awareness of your existence, products, services and expertise. Increases visibility and credibility. Demonstrates that your communications savvy is as cutting edge as your science, products and services. Complements and enhances face-to-face interaction and outreach.
A silent Twitter account sends a message. Kind of like the houses on Halloween that have a glowing pumpkin on the porch but don‟t answer the door. “We set this up but we really don‟t want to be on Twitter.” “The wildland fire science and management Twitter community has no relevance to our mission.” (Ouch.) “None of our constituents are on Twitter” Maybe they‟re not because you‟re not. Be the early adopter. You get out of it what you put into it.
Number of followers is important. The degree to which you engage with them is more important. What does it mean to ‘engage’ on social media? It‟s the digital equivalent to engaging with a live human right in front of you. You look them in they eye, invite them in, pay attention, listen to what they care about, give them a nod, offer something of value, observe their response, get input, share experience, say thank you, tell others how great they are, invite others to join the party. Twitter is a two-way street. Work to go beyond using it simply as a bullhorn to announce upcoming webinars, workshops, newsletters and other media products or events. Tweet during and after your events: Tweet key points, invite attendees to post questions via Twitter by creating and using an event #hashtag. Shout out a thank you to the 104 attendees from four agencies across eleven states (it‟s OK to brag). Tweet the link to the on-demand option as soon as possible. Invite feedback. Did that work for you all? Anything we didn't get to that we can help with? This is engagement - the effort that provides real value, raises credibility and expands your impact on Twitter. It shows you are listening as well as broadcasting. More people will see your value, recognize your influence, and engage with you. When they engage with you, they bring more followers because they‟re talking about you by referencing your Twitter @name. Tweeters who have no idea who you are become curious because someone they respect just mentioned what you do. They click on your @name to go to your profile. They see that they‟ve struck gold for relevant fire science and management information specific to their territory. They click Follow - and so it goes.
Vary your content
Switch up the topics or your presence will become stale and dry. It‟s best not to focus solely on your science and products. Tweet your own content, but also tweet funny things, and relevant content from other sources. Retweet and reply to followers. Ask your followers to weigh in on a debate. Send some support to IMTs, fuels managers, and firefighters in the field (yes they are on Twitter). 3
Tweet in an authentic voice
Be human in the social space. Avoid coming across as an emotionless science-spouting robot. Lighten up. Show a sense of humor, some quirkiness. Work to develop a comprehensive human presence. This will resonate more with the real humans who make up your audience. Give recognition to your followers and peers. Cheer them on. Talk about what your regional researchers and managers are up to in the field that week – even better – post photos of it.
The „#‟ symbol before a word or phrase is called a hashtag. Hashtags serve as searchable labels for a topic or a conversation, and are useful for finding out what‟s going on right now. By adding the „#‟ at the end of or within your text, your tweet will appear in a Twitter search for that word or phrase. Hashtags help users zero in on content that they care about, and filter out what they don‟t. You can search topics by hashtag, or follow a hashtag to see tweets from a fire, conference or workshop. When referencing fire information specific to a state in your tweet, incorporate the common fire hashtag format: #COfire #NMfire #ORfire #FLfire. Other common hashtags in the fire science and management community: #rxfire #firescience #WXfire #firesmoke #AQfire Here‟s textbook use of hashtags incorporated into the body of tweets by David Godwin @SEfirescience:
If you use Twitter for the sole purpose of pushing out science you‟re missing out on the opportunity to determine whether or not your followers care. Use Twitter to get their thoughts on what they like and don‟t like about your product offerings. 4
Encourage feedback and make it a priority to respond. Pass it on to others in your organization to help drive change. Take notes about what tweets get the most traction. Report this to your coworkers so they can be cognizant of the products and information that are resonating with your audience. A good understanding of your audience‟s values and opinions adds value for your followers.
Find relevant, timely material
Set up Google alerts for news about fire research and management in your region. Follow each other on Twitter. Make it easy by subscribing to our JFSP Regional Consortia List. Invite researchers and managers to send photos or quick video clips for you to post. Even better, invite them to get on Twitter and do their own tweeting. Create hashtags and/or a temporary Twitter account especially for your workshops, conferences and field trips. Post them prominently on your event page and home page. Invite attendees to Tweet quotes or photos from presentations. Invite people who can‟t attend to follow the conference via these Tweets. Follow tweets from other conferences, workshops and field trips relevant to your region by searching and following the event hashtag. Retweet them. This can be a powerful amplifier. Tweets from the Association for Fire Ecology 5th Fire Ecology Congress in December 2012 using the hashtag #FireCon12 reached over 100,000 Twitter feeds. Yes, you are reading that number right. This was tracked in real-time (right on my iPhone) using the analytics tool Crowdbooster. Encourage sharing of photos and videos from workshops and conferences. Tweets that link to photos, videos and other multimedia are the most popular.
Follow wildfires in your region in real time
Twitter has become the comprehensive source for real time information about wildfires. Watch and participate in the stream of information coming from wildfires in your region by finding and following wildland fire hashtags. Search by using the fire name hashtag - #tablemtnfire #galenafire. Watch for the hashtag to change as the fire progresses if the name of the fire is quite long. The PIO or local law enforcement will often be the ones to dictate a new, shorter hashtag. Watching and participating in wildfire Twitter activity is an unbeatable opportunity to show that you really are all about fire. Avoid being invisible when one is actually burning. Those are your partners and constituents out there. Tweeting during fires expands awareness about your consortia, builds credibility, and demonstrates relevance and usefulness. During the 2012 Taylor Bridge Fire in Washington state, I (@FirecienceGov) followed the fire on Twitter by searching the hashtag #taylorbridgefire, and saving the results in a live stream in Hootsuite. I retweeted maps, photos, shelter information and PIO tweets. I sent supportive tweets to IMTs and hotshot crews. Based on our presence in the conversation and use of the #taylorbridgefire hashtag, @FireScience.Gov was regularly retweeted and followed by residents of affected communities, state foresters, dispatchers, a rural fire department, county sheriff, hotshot crews and PIOs. 5
Tell your event participants about Twitter
Make a Twitter banner highlighting your @username and invite people to follow you. Display it prominently. Put your @username on everything you do. Remember way back when, when we thought that putting our email addresses on everything was a little over the top? Now it‟s essential. This is becoming the case with Twitter @names for digitally dialed-in constituents and the public. As early adopters, encourage constituents to get on Twitter if they aren‟t already. Let them know that this is a very fast, easy way to keep in touch with you and your community, which is going increasingly digital and mobile.
Click on links before retweeting
Your reputation depends on it. Does the link work? Does it link to the correct content? Is the content really worth retweeting? Usually not worth it: Large pdf files that take forever to open. Long, boring videos of talking heads. Very technical, jargon/acronym heavy content.
It’s OK to retweet yourself
Tweets fall off a cliff after a couple of days. If you‟ve got a particularly important or wonderful tweet and it didn‟t appear to get any attention, change it up a little and send it again in a few hours or a few days.
Follow to get more followers
Visit the profile pages of organizations and people you deem especially relevant to your audience. Click on Following - on the upper left - to see the list of the users they follow. A „Follow” option wi ll appear when you rollover a user name. Click it if you‟d like to see their tweets in your home feed. Not sure? Go to their profile and read through their tweets. If their content is relevant to you and your community, click Follow. In doubt? Don‟t follow them. The more you follow, the more you are followed. It‟s worth it to dig around every week and find new users to follow. It makes you more visible on Twitter, and friendlier.
Don’t follow EVERYone who follows you
When you get a new follower, go to their full profile page and check them out to see if it‟s worth following them in return. Check everybody out. If a follower‟s tweets are dominated by links to kitten videos, monster truck maintenance tips, NFL stats, one -toone conversations about kale chip recipes, or contain the occasional four letter word or hate rant – probably not worth following. These folks may well have a valid interest in wildland fire for some reason, but you don‟t want their content clogging up your home feed.
Create and use Twitter Lists
A Twitter List is a curated group of Twitter users. You can create your own lists, as well as subscribe to lists created by others. Viewing a list‟s feed will show you a stream of tweets only from users on that list. Here‟s Twitter‟s help page for Lists: How To Use Twitter Lists Here‟s the @FirescienceGov Consortia List. Subscribe to it. When you click on it you‟ll see all of the tweets from consortia members, and ONLY the tweets from consortia members. This is handy for retweet material, for seeing what the other regions are up to, and for supporting each other.
Having a social media strategy is important. Creating a complex strategy is overrated, especially when you are just starting out and you are all you‟ve got. You don‟t have full (or even part-time) time social media staff. Many of you are just learning how to ride the Twitter bike. At this point you‟re simply trying to figure out how to pedal to the end of the driveway and back, and trying to find the time to do it. Your social media strategy can evolve as your social media fluency evolves and your social media presence matures - when you‟re comfortable riding around the neighborhood, familiar with the landscape, and maybe feeling ready to plan a tour, and perhaps have another body and brain to help you. For now, keep it simple to keep it going. Your strategy can be as simple as: Know your organizational goals and use Twitter to support them. Learn to use Twitter effectively so you aren‟t wasting your time, o r that of your followers and fans. Tweet daily to: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● 7 Increase visibility and accessibility Establish and broaden credibility Promote your events and products Understand and respond to the needs of your audience Demonstrate your value, and that you are a human. Support your mission Support each other
Good news! Twitter analytics are EASY to track! There are many 3rd party platforms that can help you map and measure your success on Twitter. My favorite is Crowdbooster, an interactive tool with a clear graphic interface that gives you the information you need at a glance. Like other Twitter analytics tools you can set it up to email your Twitter numbers to you d aily or weekly. It‟s the elegant interactivity and accurate real-time reporting that I really like. Easily see how many followers saw each tweet, see your best performing tweets, and your your biggest influencers (the people/entities with lots and lots of followers that retweet you most often). Crowdbooster clearly shows how many people and organizations you‟ve reached with your tweets. This is a measure of your impact and influence. This is much more telling than the number of followers you have, and a wonderful little piece of data you can export to help demonstrate the reach of your consortia efforts. Once you‟re really in the Twitter groove, it‟s $8 per month well spent. Here‟s a shot of the interface:
Keep it short
Short, concise tweets are more readable and retweetable. Just because you are allowed 140 characters doesn‟t mean you have to use them all. It‟s actually better if you don‟t. 8
Avoid the perils of pre-scheduling
Don’t put Twitter on autopilot. Avoid excessive pre-scheduling and automation. Remember that Twitter‟s strength is as a real-time, two-way news and information conduit. It‟s provides opportunities for engaging, responding, and contributing something relevant to a thread or discussion about an event that‟s happening right now. If all of your tweets are pre-scheduled to post automatically, you miss this opportunity, and the beauty of Twitter. You appear absent from the event at best, and insensitive at worst. Here‟s a hypothetical example: A neighborhood somewhere in your region has just been issued an evacuation order because of a wildfire. The tweets from and about the fire are flowing through at a rapid fire pace. Typical tweets (mostly) include photos, videos, updates from PIOs and EMS responders, locations of animal shelters, interactive fire perimeter maps, observations about changes in wind direction, incident command transfers, etc. In the middle of all of this, the tweet that you scheduled yesterday morning, before the fire started, appears. The one announcing an upcoming webinar about fuels management in protected salamander habitat. Important stuff but not at the moment. Be present on Twitter. Tweet support to all involved. Pass on safety information, links to news conferences, official fire information resources. Anything but that webinar, for now.
When does pre-scheduling make sense?
When you need to spread things out a little bit. People tend to skip tweets that appear as a long series of back to back tweets, one right after the other, from the same account. On those days when you‟re flush with fantastic material for your audience, write out your tweets and use a scheduler to automatically post them every couple of hours. This is a better practice than zipping them out one after the other, which is known as „flooding the feed‟. Hootsuite has a feature that analyzes the activity of your followers and automatically sends your tweets when they are most likely to be seen. Don‟t schedule and vanish. Check in for a minute or two throughout the day to see who‟s retweeting, and what kind of attention or interaction your tweets may be getting.
Avoid the perils of automatic cross-posting from Facebook to Twitter
Facebook posts only play well as Twitter posts if they are written in a Twitter-friendly way: Concise and under 140 characters. If you want to autoshare your Facebook posts on Twitter using the Facebook fb.me feature - here‟s a process for making it work from Lexie Lane and the folks at thesocialmediapanel.com.
This will translate Facebook posts to Twitter effectively. If you d on‟t take these steps, your auto-tweeted Facebook posts can end up looking like this:
The endangered WHAT???? This can be frustrating for your followers.
Avoid cryptic newsletter tweets
If you use an email service provider like Mailchimp or Constant Contact and you want your eNews auto-posted to Facebook and Twitter, take the time to create Facebook and Twitter friendly subject lines for your email campaigns. You can do this is the in the set-up phase of campaign creation. If you don‟t take this step, your Twitter post will look like those below and followers won‟t know what your newsletter is about. Take the time to let people know so they d on‟t have to go digging.
Say thank you. A lot.
Thank regularly and generously - new follows, mentions, retweets and comments. To thank new followers. Set up email alerts (in your Twitter account settings) to receive an email notification every time someone new follows you. Send them a direct message (“DM”) thanking them. A Twitter DM is like Twitter email - a 140 character email. A simple “Thanks for the follow!” is Engagement 101. It may not always be feasible to thank each and every one, but give it your best effort. It demonstrates that you are human and you are listening, and that you have manners. This is important for media, those who are clearly directly involved in wildland fire, and those who are big influencers in the community (those with lots of followers who tweet frequently).
Also work to thank the individual firefighter or tiny, invisible rural fire department. They are stunned. They‟ve been seen and acknowledged. They love it. They can be counted on to connect your products to others who have never heard of you.
Participate in the weekly Follow Friday (#FF)
FollowFriday ( #FF) is a mutual admiration applause-fest that takes place every - you guessed it - Friday. #FF is a weekly opportunity to expand your list of who you follow by discovering users recommended by the people you already follow. You do the same for your followers by listing users that you recommend. It looks like this:
Recommending users to each other helps improve everyone‟s Twitter experience. It also helps you to see your reach, and can act as a motivator for becoming more engaged. You might be surprised who noticed your content and deemed it valuable enough to recommend. I certainly was when @KQEDscience and @NASA_EO gave @FirescienceGov a #FF shoutout.
When you‟re ready to get fancy, you can group your #FF recommendations by type. Recommend a list of tweeting scientists one week, a list of wildlife refuges the next, fire operations folks the next. Lather, rinse,repeat.
It’s OK to modify the content of items that you retweet
Modify when a tweet could be shorter and clearer, or to make room for your own comment. When you modify, change the “RT” that‟s generated at the beginning of a retweet to “MT”. This indicates to your followers that you‟ve tweaked the original. Trim it. Take out extra spaces, punctuation, words and phrases like “and”, “check out”, “there are”, “here is”. Shrink long form dates to numbers and slashes.
Here‟s a sample: Original tweet: The UUU Extension Service offers the following guide on selecting fire-resistant plants to help protect your home. bit.lyINDEY26 (145 characters)
Modified: (shorter) MT@UUFirescience UUU Extension Guide: Selecting fire-resistant plants to help you protect your home bit.lyINDEY26 (121 characters! Woot!)
Protecting your account
Watch for ‘Spambots’
Beware the “followers” with impossibly adorable baby animals or scantily clad women in their profile image, who tweet with horrible grammar or repeat tweets like, “Oh my gosh look what your (sic) doing in this video! (link)”. This is the common Spambot at work. It‟s an attempt to compromise or hack your account. If the account of someone you follow has been compromised, you‟ll see uncharac teristic tweets from them such as, “This person is saying terrible things about you online!” Really? Probably not. Leave it alone. Don‟t click on the link, or on any odd looking link, especially those sent to you in a DM, even from someone you recognize. Their account may have been hacked and the link generated by spammers who want you to click on it so it can unleash something predatory and contagious into your operating system. If you’ve been hacked, and strange tweets and DMs are being posted from your account, your followers will let you know. If this happens, follow Twitter's recommendations for dealing with a hacked account. Your best defense is to follow Twitter's recommendations for keeping your account secure. That said - being hacked is not the end of the world. Most Twitter users know a hacked message when they see one. They don‟t think that you scientists at that university or research station actually sent that freaky tweet. They know not to click on the link. Follow Twitter‟s recommendations immediately, and you can be up and tweeting again in no time. You can report phishing attempts and hacks to Twitter from your profile page, Hootsuite dashboard or through the link above. Because your account is public, it‟s not uncommon to receive a small flood of these messages the first couple of months you‟re on Twitter as spammers troll for new, inexperienced users. Just keep an eye on it. Pay attention. Block. Report. It settles down and goes away for the most part.
I don’t have time for this...
To get started, make a daily commitment to a small time window. You can have a meaningful presence on Twitter in less than 20 minutes a day, especially if you use Hootsuite. Open it in the morning and leave the tab open for the day. Take five or ten minutes twice a day to check it, schedule a post or two, retweet something interesting, ask a question, thank a new follower, follow someone new, follow a hashtag, u pdate the world on what you‟re working on. Set a timer. Five minutes. Ten minutes. When time‟s up, be done. Click out and get back to the eighty-seven other things you have to do before the end of the day. Pat yourself on the back for showing up daily for your followers. Still can‟t fit it in? Enlist a Digital Native to handle your social media. Find them in your undergraduate/graduate natural resources or communications programs.
Still feeling unsure? Watch and learn.
Once you‟ve created your account, you don‟t have to start tweeting immediately. Take a few days to explore, observe, follow, read, and learn. Take a look at the tweets from the following users for automatic “how-to” tutorials. Consortia Twitter Jedi, David Godwin - @SEfirescience Humor and variety, newcomer Gloria Edwards - @SRfirescience Expert at plugging products with personality, with zero trace of actual sales pitch - @nature_LANDFIRE Keeping it Federal and professional with a human voice - @usfs_r5 and @R5_Fire_News ...and plenty more. Just get in there and look around. Keep it simple. Work to be consistently and reliably present, available, engaged, and valuable.
Visit the Firescience.gov Twitter profile page. View the the list of over 450 users that we follow. Click Follow next to their @name to follow them too. Don‟t miss @fireinfogirl, @wildfiretoday, @nature_LANDFIRE. Find yourselves and each other on our JFSP Regional Consortia List Handy Twitter following FAQs 26 tips for Twitter Success from socialmediaexplorer Journal Article Tweets May Predict Citations - Scientific American Podcast
Laurie Gharis - Social Media Use in Natural Resources Outreach - recorded webinar Poster: The Twitter Social Media Platform- The Southern Fire Exchange experience in fire science communication Scientists and science on Twitter More scientists who are doing great job on Twitter Peruse this list of the folks @sfriedscientist follows Social Media Performance Metrics: What You Need to Know - a webinar from howto.gov Hootsuite is free. It has a built in URL shortener, character counter, scheduler, and an “auto -scheduler” that analyzes the Twitter activity of your followers and sends your tweets when your audience is more likely to see them. It allows you to see your timeline, your scheduled tweets, tweets from your lists, tweets you‟ve sent, users who‟ve retweeted or mentioned you, and any hashtags you‟re following all in one screen that scrolls horizontally. This eliminates the need to click to different screens within Twitter itself to see these streams, or to click out, copy and paste URLs to shorten them. You can also use Hootsuite it to post to your Facebook page simultaneously (but not all the time), and preview how the post will look before you send it. Crowdbooster Twitter analytics tool ------------------------------------------I hope this guide will help you stretch your legs in the fire science and management social media sphere. Social Media is a wildly dynamic field, with platforms and methods changing and evolving at a dizzying pace. None of us can know it all. I certainly do not. I learn from others every single day. I welcome your feedback and suggestions. What tricks, tools and practices have I left out? Have more questions? Suggestions? Let me know at email@example.com, send me a DM @sciencefire or @FirescienceGov, or give me a call - 801-971-8781. Marjie Brown Science Writer / Social Media Community Manager Joint Fire Science Program