So you’ve decided Twitter is a good fit. Time to hit the town!

Twitter 101

  • Messages in Twitter are capped at 140 characters.
  • Twitter messages, like short bursts of birdsong, are called “tweets.”
  • The act of messaging in Twitter is called “tweeting.”
  • Your Twitter “handle” is “@yourorganization’susername" – for example “@Upleaf.”
  • Twitter is organized and catalogued using theme-based “hashtags” that look like this: #civilrights, #obamacare, #LGBT.
  • If you want your tweets to be heard, you must mark your message with the right hashtags. Think of hashtags as your specific birdcall to other birds of the same species. 
  • People “follow” each other on Twitter to see each other’s tweets. If you follow someone, you become their “follower.” It’s super simple to follow (or unfollow) people.
  • To converse publicly with other tweeters, use their handle in your tweet. For example say you want to commend Upleaf on a particularly helpful tip. You’d write: “Thanks @Upleaf! We're sending over a box of chocolate eclairs.” (Feel free to practice with this exact text during your first week of tweeting practice. We like chocolate eclairs.)
  • You can private message people on Twitter but only if you’re following each other.
  • Seeing what others are saying about any given topic is an absolute breeze with the search box feature.

Setting Up Your Account

1.    Go to

2.    Enter your full name (real name), email address, and a non-intuitive password. (Hackers delight in infiltrating Twitter accounts, so don’t just hand it to them.)

3.    Click Sign up for Twitter.

4.    On the next page, you can select a username. This will be your unique identifier on Twitter and should be either the name of your organization or, if that isn’t available, something catchy that positions you in your field. Your name can't be more than 15 letters long and can't include the word "admin."

5.    Double-check your name, email address, password, and username.

6.    Click Create my account. You may be asked to complete a Captcha (that test where you are asked to retype letters from a distorted script). This is used to verify your account and to do what centuries of philosophers have struggled towards in vain – prove your existence as a sentient being.

7.    Twitter will send you a confirmation email. Click the embedded link to confirm your email address and account.

The Fun Stuff

8.    Now for the bells and whistles! Customize your profile to reflect your organization. Do this before you start tweeting or following people! It’s as true in the ethersphere as in the material world: You only have one chance to make a first impression. Study some examples of great nonprofit Twitter profiles before you start crafting your own.

9.    Start with your logo. Carefully crop your logo into a clean, square avatar. (400px by 400px is fine and dandy.) Don’t get sloppy! Your avatar is your image across Twitter. If you’re struggling to crop your logo without distorting its size or cutting off letters, ask a professional designer for help. Once you’re ready to upload your logo, go to Settings – Profile – Photo – Change Photo – Choose Existing Photo – and upload from your hard drive.

10. Profile.  Add your name, location, website and a brief bio. If you’ll be tweeting as your organization and your Twitter handle is not the name of your organization, make sure to use your organization’s name under “Name” instead of your own. Insert your mission statement as your bio. Again, keep it short and sweet.

11. Header. Go to Settings – Profile – Header. Upload a high quality 1,500 px by 500 px header picture. Custom designs or professional photos look smashing here. Adjust colors and image position to match your logo & branding.

12. Design. Customize the rest of your design to compliment your logo and header. It helps to know the exact colors branded by your logo.

13. Get Feedback. Once you’ve set up your profile, get some feedback from others on how it looks. If you suspect in your heart of hearts that it might be lame, tacky, or just blah, go back to the drawing board. Stumped? Take a look at Buffer's tips on optimizing your profile.

14. Start Following People. Before you start tweeting anything, spend a few days in the grandstands just watching how it all works. Search for organizations you want to keep up with. Identify the hashtags that are most relevant to your field. Search for terms related to your mission, and follow relevant people who are talking about them.

15. Start Tweeting. Once you feel like you have a good grasp on how people interact on Twitter, and have read up on Twitter best practices, go ahead and start tweeting! Congrats, little birdy, you’re on your way!