Be Compelling in 140 Characters (or Less)

Published on August 18, 2013 by      Print
Be Compelling in 140 Characters (or Less)

Writers will tell you that it is much harder to write a short press release than a long one because it requires choosing your words and focus very carefully. The same goes for writing copy for a brochure or just about anything. When you can’t include everything about your organization, how do you decide what is most important to include?

Those who work at nonprofit organizations tend to be very passionate about their work and about their organizations’ missions. When asked about their work, nonprofit professionals want to tell all. But, would you tell someone everything about yourself on a first date? When Twitter started to become a popular outlet for nonprofits, it made us think in new – much shorter – ways. It did this because of the forced limit of 140 characters per “tweet.”

The truth is, however, this is how we should have been thinking all along. We don’t need to tell all about our nonprofits, as impressive as your outcomes measurement techniques may be. Potential supporters don’t need to know everything right away, they need only have an interest. There are three steps to keep in mind when wooing your audiences. First, you need to grab their interest. Second, you need to make them care about your work. Third, we want them to act. Each step leads to the next.

To simplify, you need to:

  • Be interesting
  • Make them care
  • Provide a specific call to action

To grab someone’s interest, smaller stories or tidbits of information do the trick. Reciting your nonprofit’s mission statement won’t work (and most likely will not fit within 140 characters). To put it into perspective, the last two sentences were exactly 193 characters.

It is a small space to fill, so there is no excuse for every “tweet” not to be compelling. The interactive nature of Twitter adds another dimension that makes short statements extremely powerful for recruiting new audiences (audience members are anyone that decides to care about your nonprofit, from donors to word-of-mouth promoters).

No “tweet” should be without a link for more information. Therefore, while the 140-characters-or-less needs to get their attention it doesn’t have to do all of the heavy lifting. The “tweet” can grab interest and provide a link. The link goes to a page on your website that has a story that makes them care. The page has a donation call-to-action.

Twitter provides the perfect opportunity to tell the small stories that give the big picture. Your nonprofit may be saving the world (or the whales), but it is the small stuff that people can relate to and understand. Start there, and then bring them full circle.

Hannah Brazee Gregory is a nonprofit marketing expert and founder of SHOESTRING, the nonprofit’s agency. She can be reached at or 1-888-835-6236. Follow her on Twitter at @NonprofitPRguru.

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