Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Thursday, July 08, 2010

"I had to unfollow because..."

From time to time I've used this space to encourage nonprofit organizations to use social media to help get their message out, connect with supporters and community, and engage in conversation. A good social media strategy can include all or any of blogging, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or any number of other platforms.

Last year, to the question of "Should Your Nonprofit be on Twitter?" I answered an enthusiastic, "Yes!" But in that posting, I emphasized that "Twitter requires listening, as well as frequent posting," and that ignoring that warning could cause your social media strategy to backfire. Yesterday, it did backfire for an organization I was following.

This organization had always had a habit of tweeting in spurts, posting five to ten links or comments at a time, then nothing for 24 hours. I understood this, as the person doing the tweeting has many other duties as well, and she did a good job of listening and responding to others.

But what happened yesterday was a spurt of several hundred tweets within a three hour period before I had to click "Unfollow."

Regardless of how useful and valuable the information in a tweet might be, and regardless of what other benefits such a promotion might bring, she forgot to consider the effect it would have on those who are already their supporters and followers.

For me, it rendered Twitter useless for those several hours before I pulled the plug. Within the hundreds of messages from that organization, I lost messages from other groups and individuals, and there was no possible way to read all the tweets this one group was sending - nor could they have been paying any attention to replies during this period.

Overwhelming is not informing, and drowning out is not communication. Even well-intentioned tweets or emails can become spam when the tools are abused.

This morning, they have posted an apology and explanation, promised a return to "normal tweeting," and I have re-followed. But if my loyalty to this person and this organization had not been so strong, I would have un-followed quicker, and not come back.

So, how often should you tweet? As far as spurts, I'd say that if you need to tweet more than five times in a 30 minute period, or more than twenty tweets per day (not counting replies), you should have written a blog post instead.

A handful of useful tweets each day, plus responding to supporters tweets, keeps you part of the conversation and relevant, and - most important here - not annoying.


  1. Excellent Point. Social media can be a consultants best dream or worst nightmare. While it can be used to effectively communicate with consumers, it has its downsides. Technological consultants for firms must be aware of how to use social media in a proper manner. For more info check out consulting

  2. Great post, I hope the people spamming on Twitter will take a short break to read it too! I find very limited interaction on Twitter myself, even if I pose a question, nobody responds. It seems more like one of those scrolling marquis signs in Times Square than a vehicle for conversation. I'm trying to keep at it but my enthusiasm is waning.