Telling Stories with Twitter

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Guest post by Robert Bochnak

UntitledLast Saturday night—while the younger set was out clubbing and bar hopping—my wife and I put the kids to bed and then got a little crazy ourselves.

That’s right. We spent the evening organizing Legos.

Picking through mounds of tiles and throwing them (my idea) into the appropriate colored bin (my wife’s idea) got me thinking. I wondered why so many pieces were tiny (probably to piss off parents like me) and why so many of the figures were missing pieces—there’s something sad about seeing Lego Wolverine both declawed and decapitated.

These observations aside, I also thought about the organization process and its relationship to social media event coverage. In each case, the goal is to take a number of disparate pieces (e.g., Legos or Tweets) and organize them into a coherent whole, like my wife and I did (see above).

But the process of transforming social media activity into a coherent story isn’t child’s play (sorry, I couldn’t resist the bad pun) and in this post I’ll share the approach I’ve followed in my role as social media manager for the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) alumni office.

Get Storified

I’ve covered 8-10 events on behalf of HBS since I started working there in early 2013 and I’ve followed the same pre-event approach for each. A few months before an event, I research alumni who are both attending the event AND are active on Twitter (see “Social Media Event Coverage: An Integrated Approach: Part 1” for more on this research process). Once the event begins in earnest, things get very hectic, with tweets being sent and photos being posted on Facebook. My goals for each event are two-fold; I want to generate as much real-time engagement with attendees as possible AND I want create a narrative around the event. To achieve the latter, I use Storify. This is a great tool since, naturally, tweets and responses are posted at various times during an event, and Storify allows users to arrange content in chronological order; and by organizing tweets this way, I’m able to create a coherent, linear story.


Furthermore, I’m able to provide multiple perspectives on an event; it’s not just my tweets that fill the Storify. Alumni tweet their impressions of the event and share photos of how they are consuming the proceedings. I add these tweets to the Storify and also pose leading questions to propel the engagement forward. The challenge, of course, is to get alumni involved. This can be difficult since many attendees put away their smartphones so they can concentrate on the proceedings. To address this reality, I reach out to alumni who are not at the event but may be interested in a given topic being discussed.

A prime example of this approach in action is below. These alumni had just graduated from HBS, were active on Twitter, and had gone through the FIELD program. With this data in mind, I posed the following question to them.


I followed the same approach with these alumni.


By involving alumni in event coverage, it allows them to “write the event story,” and it also opens up a number of outreach avenues. Once the Storify is posted, I can tweet it to recent graduates who went through FIELD, alumni interested in venture capital, and classmates of the individual alumni included in the Storify. Also, since each alumnus/a quoted in the Storify receives an “automated” tweet (see below), it increases my chances that the content will be retweeted and shared with an even larger alumni audience.


This is just a glimpse of the way we tell stories on Twitter using Storify (for more examples go to and if I had one piece of advice it would be to get started on this content creation/organization as early as possible. When you have a free moment—during a break or lunch—you should sort and organize your tweets so you can publish your Storify coverage as soon as possible once an event is over.

034971e (1)Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS. 

Follow Robert on Twitter at


3 Reasons You Should Absolutely Be Interested In Pinterest

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social mediaGuest post by Julia Campbell 

If you market your brand online, there is a good chance you have heard of the third most popular social networking site – Pinterest.

The photo and video sharing site is exploding in popularity. It has 70 million users, has registered over half a million business accounts and gets 2.5 billion page views per month. Whoa!

Note: Before jumping on any social network, your nonprofit should think about overall fundraising and marketing strategy and staff capacity first, and the tools second (Pinterest is a tool, not a strategy).

That being said, there are many compelling reasons why you should at least be interested in the fasting growing social network out there.

Here are my top three reasons why your brand should absolutely be interested in Pinterest:

  1. Pinterest is growing leaps and bounds. While 71% of online adults use Facebook and 22% use LinkedIn, 21% use Pinterest (more than Twitter at 18% and Instagram at 17%). It’s driving more web traffic to online publishers than Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit combined.
  1. Pinterest is where the women are. As a general trend, women make up more of the population on most social net working sites – but they make up 80% of active users on Pinterest.

Women at virtually every income level are the driving forces behind household spending. When they give to charity and purchase brand products, they are more likely to spend more and be more loyal to brands.

  1. Pinterest is aspirational, not of the moment. What we pin reflects what we covet, what moves us, what we desire, who we want to be.

It works more like a Vision Board, rather than an off-the-cuff, in-the-moment statement of what we are eating or where we are hanging out. 

Of all the social networks out there, Pinterest posts (called pins) last much longer. Pinterest pins have a half life of over one week! (A tweet is 5-25 minutes; 80 minutes for a Facebook post.)

People pin photos on Pinterest to share with friends and to save for later.

Personally, I pin things that I want to remember and refer to later – fun ideas for crafts and gifts, things to do, articles to read.

You can’t save Facebook posts or tweets (other than the favorite function). In this way, Pinterest is unlike every other social network.

Do you want to learn more ways that you can use Pinterest to promote your brand?

Join me and dozens of other social media experts on May 14th for a day devoted to social media!

In my session, Marketing Your Brand On Pinterest, you will learn why your brand needs to get on Pinterest, now; the difference between a personal profile and a Company profile; examples of brands are kicking butt on Pinterest and why; the nuts and bolts of viral pinning; the qualities of a highly re-pinnable image; ways to integrate your efforts with your other social media platforms.


5 Reasons You Need A Social Media Strategy for Your Nonprofit

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PinterestGuest post by Julia Campbell 

There is no doubt about it – social media has changed the game in terms of how people communicate, share information and learn about new things in their lives. 

With 73% of online adults using at least one social network and almost half (42%) of all online adults using multiple platforms, nonprofits that do not embrace this tectonic shift will get left behind.

Nonprofits are jumping on social channels in greater numbers.  The most important social media platforms for nonprofits are Facebook (95%), Twitter (64%), YouTube (38%), and LinkedIn (26%).

However, some nonprofit boards and staff members are still skeptical and even fearful of jumping into the social media ocean.

Here are just 5 reasons why you need a social media strategy for your organization:

1)     You need to communicate with your donors and supporters where they are.

In her great new book Mobile for Good, nonprofit social media expert Heather Mansfield explains that nonprofits now have to engage and interact with five different generations of supporters.

Social media participation crosses the majority of these five generations. The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55-64 year age bracket.

Not only that, social media has completely changed and revolutionized how people of all ages communicate and how they consume information. For a nonprofit organization to stick their head in the sand and simply deny that this revolution exists does a disservice to the mission of the organization.

2)     The numbers don’t lie. 

  • 57% of Facebook users “Like” a charity or cause on Facebook so they can publicly show support of it to their friends.
  • 47% of Americans discover and/or learn more about causes they care about via social media and online channels.
  • 55% of those who follow, like and otherwise engage with a nonprofit on social media channels have been inspired to “take further action” (and 59% of this 55% donate money).
  • The average donation made via social media is $59 and growing every year.

3)     Visual storytelling is the new marketing and fundraising.

We all know that statistics are not nearly as compelling as stories. 

  • St. Baldrick’s is using success stories and personal testimonials on Facebook to raise thousands of dollars – and they only post a few times a week to Facebook.
  • Muttville Dog Rescue has used Facebook to increase their adoptions and raise awareness about fostering dogs, all based on storytelling.
  • The Wenham Museum in Wenham, MA wanted to reach a younger audience, and actively uses Pinterest& Instagram to post information on the stories behind the exhibits and the artists featured in their collections.

4)     You are more likely to succeed if you have a plan.

Many nonprofit staff are so focused on putting out fires every single day their eyes glaze over when you bring up adding one more thing.

The thought of feeding the social media machine can seem overwhelming. However, if there is a plan in place and a strategy in place, it may be better received.

Use my free social media calendar template to get started and create a plan for how it will all get done, and attend UMass Boston’s Social Media Day for my session, 10 Steps to a Successful Social Media Strategy for Nonprofits!

5)     Engaging with supporters is NEVER a waste of time.

Remember that spreading the word about your nonprofit and your work is not a waste of time.

Start small and grow from there. Do not attempt to be on more than two social networks if you are just starting out and do not have a dedicated social media staff person.

Begin with what you are most comfortable with, so the learning curve won’t be as drastic. Explain to your supervisor that you will regularly evaluate and measure what you are doing online.

Join me and dozens of other social media experts on May 14th for a day devoted to social media!

In my session, 10 Steps to a Successful Social Media Strategy for Nonprofits, nonprofit professionals will learn how to implement a successful social media strategy in 10 steps.

Topics to be covered:

  • How are nonprofits using social media to raise money and awareness (best practices)?
  • What are some tips to engage supporters on social networks?
  • How can a nonprofit integrate all communication channels – online and offline – for maximum success?

Nonprofits will gain an understanding of just how much time is required to implement a social media strategy, which channels are right for their organization and how many resources (money, staff time) are necessary for success.