Nicola Wallace-Dean is the centre manager for Starting Point in Stockport and found using Twitter an excellent way of recruiting and communicating with volunteers.
Why did you look for this tool in the first place? What did you need help with?
We needed to recruit volunteers who had the skills to be Digital Champions, people who enjoyed using technology and didn’t need much training. Typically, a lot volunteers that come to use need quite a lot of support in the early weeks - which is great - but not what we needed this time round. We decided to try something a bit different and see what happened. Actually we’ve found it’s been really useful beyond recruitment too - it’s helped us raise our profile and talk to some very important people we’d never have got in touch with otherwise.
How did you find out about the tool?
I’d been using it for quite some time personally, and actually hosted some some social media training for local companies on how they could best use Twitter to communicate to their audiences.
What is this tool for?
Twitter is an online social networking tool that helps you tell others what you’re up to, what you need, promote your new blog ,website or service - the possibilities are endless! You can also connect with others who have similar interests. It’s those connections and conversations that are really invaluable.
Why has this tool been useful to you?
It’s really helped me with volunteer recruitment. Twitter allows me to communicate in a language that the people I’m hoping to attract speak in, so my success rate has been quite high.
I tweet that we’re looking for volunteers with IT skills in the Stockport area and other people I’m connected with then ‘re-tweet’ so the message gets out much wider. Then people start to come back to me offering their time. The plus side it that I know if a potential volunteer is using Twitter they have the right level of skill to be a Digital Champion for us!
What have been the benefits of using this tool to you?
The Twitter app is great as it means I can use my mobile phone to tweet - I don’t have to be at a computer. I can take a picture and upload it quickly, so people can see what we do ‘live’ - as it happens. For instance I can post a picture of one of our learners sending their very first email. That can be really inspiring, and that’s what gets people interesting in us and wanting to lend their support.
I’d go as far to say that Twitter gives a small community group like us a louder voice. Before, we couldn’t shout about what we do to such a wide audience - we had to keep things local. As an example, Twitter has enabled us to start talking to our local council and councillors. It might sound daft, but we get a quicker response from a Tweet then from an email or letter bouncing round the council systems to get to the right person. Everything is short and snappy, and things happen quickly. You can start direct conversations with anyone, anywhere.
Another of our biggest successes was getting Nick Clegg on board! It would have been really hard to have done that without social media, as he’s inundated with correspondence. He saw our Tweet though, and responded, and bang - that’s another contact made and another conversation started. He knows who we are, what we do, and why it’s so important.
Is there any cost attached to using this tool?
No, it’s completely free!
Are there any online tutorials available?
Social media examiner is a really good site to visit for ideas on how to use social media in the best way possible.
Did this application need much of your time to set up at the beginning?
No, no time at all.
Are there any limitations to using this tool?
The character count make it a challenge to get your point across but sometimes it’s a good thing as you have to be concise! I often link to websites so people can get more information on what I’m talking about.
Do you have any top tips for using this tool?
Use photographs! You can spend ages (and lots of characters) trying to describe something when picture will do a much better job!
Keep it relevant, because there’s no space for waffle.
Use hashtags - it’s a great way of getting even more new people to see what you’re saying.
Re-tweet - if you’ve found something someone’s said interesting, re-tweet it so others can see it too. You’ll also find those you re-tweet, re-tweet you in return!
Make time to have conversations - it’s not just about selling yourself or broadcasting your messages one way. It’s about making connections, starting and keeping up conversations.
Do you have any other recommendations of tools that could help you do something similar?
As far as recruiting volunteers goes Facebook and LinkedIn have worked well for me alongside Twitter.