The Ultimate Twitter Primer

by Christian D. Malesic, MBA, CAE, CMP, IOM

As an Association Executive, how do you increase communication and connectivity with your members while driving up event attendance with NO COST other than time? It can be done through Twitter.

The Mind of a Gen Xer Association Executive
My name is Christian and I am a Twitter-aholic. Like most people on Twitter, I check it multiple times a day - usually 6-12. Sometimes I do fly-bys, spending only a few moments, while other times I spend 5-10 minutes.

I have created special "lists" of the other folks on Twitter that I like the most. These lists keep me from sorting thru all of the noise, allowing me to read only the opinions of those I have come to trust or enjoy. I have an associations list, news list, politics list, and fellow Builders Assn’s (NAHB) list. If fact, I created and manage that last list on behalf of the federation of 738 builders associations across the country.

BTW (By the Way - for those that don't know the lingo), did I tell you... I am a Generation Xer.

Is it Better to Burn Out?
We have read in our association literature and have heard in continuing education that we must change or die. We must include the Gen Xers and Gen Yers (and sometime soon, the Millennials) or our associations will slowly shrink and then perish as the Boomers retire. The Xs, Ys, and Millennials are on Twitter.

We are all trying to cut costs and squeeze pennies. Twitter costs nothing in hard money - only time. Everything you currently mail, fax, email, or carrier pigeon can be put on Twitter... as long as you say it in 140 characters or less.

The Home Builders Association of Berks County (HBA) increased attendance at every single event last year using social media. That means, we brought in more money on every event; but, we also spent less: attacking the profit equation from both ends
What to Tweet?
It's all about the tweets. If your timeline is filled with you selling things from your calendar - members will quickly lose interest. Your members care about the industry, trends, new products or procedures, and maybe a little about Washington or the state capitol as it relates to your issues. Fill your timeline with as much of that as you can.

You do not need to do all of the work. ReTweet things you read in the news, from ASAE, or from other associations. We are all scouring the web for content. Check other associations’ Tweets regularly and ReTweet those Tweets you think your members will appreciate. Thus, you are going to ignore all of our Tweets on our events and ReTweet only the stuff that is relevant to YOUR members.
How Do People Know You Exist?
From the association’s point of view, there are three kinds of Tweeps.  At first blush, you might think you only care about the first type; but, think again.
  • Members. The obvious group you want to reach. This is our target market and why we do what we do. We want them to know what we are up to; so, they can be a part of it - making their membership more valuable.

  • Non-Member Locals. This category has two subsets: those who are potential members and those who are not ever going to be potentials, even though they may be in your territory. In the first group is the eligible non-member who never joined or the one who didn't renew. The second subset is the postman, hair dresser, politician, etc. Chances are extremely high that they will never even consider joining or are not eligible to join by your rules. Should you market... er, I mean, Tweet to them? Do your members want the public to hire them? Do you have events open to the public? Member awards you want publicly recognized? Political issues you are fighting for or against? Get the point? You WANT the local public to follow you EVEN IF they are not a potential member.

  • Non-Member Non-Locals. We all have different territories. If not in your territory, why do you care if someone from Berks County (Reading, PA) follows you? Or Paris? Or Moscow? You still should care. It comes down to reach and influence as measured by metrics such as the Klout Score. If you tie your Twitter account to your website, Facebook posts, YouTube, etc. your status will elevate as people do searches, causing your information to rank higher on search engines inquiries.
Start at Home
When the HBA of Berks County does our membership guide each year (print and online), we ensure we have the proper names, phone, email – and now we also ask for members’ social media accounts to allow us to expand our reach.

We also put our linkable social media icons on each page of our website and our email signature block, as well as business cards, flyers, and letterhead. We publicize our accounts in each issue of our magazine (At Home in Berks), put up a large vertical banner at every association event, and push social media at our open-to-the-public events. Even after all that, we wish our follower count would be larger; but, it is growing... steadily.

Cross-utilize Twitter
Everything we post on Facebook also posts to Twitter (and vice versa). When we put up a new YouTube video, it goes to Twitter. Thus, we are cross-populating various social media accounts with one staff action.

Some experts now argue that this is bad: Facebookers are different than Tweeps, they pontificate; thus, posts should be presented differently. In a college classroom, I'll agree. The pragmatist in me, however, argues two points to the contrary:

  • Most people prefer one or two social media accounts over the others. I tried Facebook, for example. I really tried. It wasn't me. I prefer Twitter and YouTube personally. I’m not fond of the other platforms. But, people are different with varied tastes. As associations, we need to be on more than one type of social media platform to reach them where THEY like to be instead of where WE like to be. This allows us to expand our reach to our members and the members’ customers alike.

  • I do not have the time or the staff to log on to each social media platform to customize the same message over and over to make it specific to that platform. Do you?

Make Your Website Current
We post the most current, cutting-edge topics and notices of upcoming events to our home page the moment we know about them – and we do nothing to make this happen.

In one action, we set up a Twitter "widget" on our home page at Twitter did, and does, all the work. Now, every time we post to Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, the information goes on Twitter (as a Tweet) and then to our website.

Do it on YOUR Schedule
We do most of our tweets for the month at one sitting. For all of our events and "advertisements" we schedule the Tweet. Then, we round out our timeline with ReTweets and live content.

Before writing this, I used HootSuite to write and schedule all of my tweets for the next six weeks. I can set the date, time, and specific wording. Up until the moment it goes live, I can edit any of those three areas or delete it entirely.

Other Thoughts?There is much to cover on this topic. If you have specific questions or thoughts, post them on ASAE’s CEO Network Online and we'll have the conversation in front of thousands of our closest association executive friends.

Christian D. Malesic, MBA, CAE, CMP, IOM provides insight on nonprofit management, executive decision-making, business operations, personal finance, marketing, construction issues, and occasionally, on political philosophy / history. To see more by Christian, visit or to receive notice of the newest articles written by Christian, follow him on Parler @CDMalesic or on Twitter @CDMalesic.

(c) Copyright - Christian D. Malesic, MBA, CAE, CMP, IOM.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide.