Getting a Handle on Twitter

Our church uses Facebook and Twitter as our primary social outlets. I plan on writing an article about our social strategy sometime later.

Today I want to touch on what I consider to be the biggest challenge of using twitter in a church: the notification system.

A notification system is the mechanism the service uses to let people know that something has happened related to their account on the network.

Facebook has a robust notification system. You can get email or text notification on nearly all communication related activity: if someone sends you a private message, if someone posts on your wall, if someone tags you in an image or note, and a whole lot more. You can find this system by going to “Account,” then “Account Settings,” then “Notifications.” It’s an impressive list.

Twitter’s notification choices are embarrassingly paltry.

This is pretty lame, especially given the fact that there are only 4 types of interactions on Twitter: follows, direct (private) messages, @mentions, and re-tweets. The only ones that have a notification option are follows and direct messages.

The problem is that most of the interaction on twitter is through @mentions – where someone mentions your username in a tweet. For example:

The second style of @mention is the old manual style re-tweet which is actually an @mention prefixed with “RT.” For instance:

Since Twitter does not offer notifications of @mentions, you either have to spend a lot of time checking your twitter account or find a service or application that will notify you. Thankfully there are plenty that do.

Some dedicated twitter applications (desktop/mobile) have mechanisms for notifications, but most require you to be running that app. Some mobile twitter clients will push notifications to you.

If either of those options are “too much” for you, or you’d simply like an email notification, there are email notification services out there.

I use Mention Notifier, but there are others.

It isn’t pretty but it authenticates with OAUTH so your connection to Twitter is relatively safe.

Once authenticated, you get a very basic screen showing the searches you’ve already set up and an input box to add a new one.

The result is an email that looks like this:

If you are going to use twitter, you need to fully engage it. No, I don’t mean you have to spend a lot of time using twitter, you just need to be “present” if someone inquires of the account. That means you need some kind of solution for knowing when they inquire. I recently ran across an article where someone “tested” churches with twitter accounts to see if they were listening. Of 25 the churches “tested,” seventeen of them did not respond. Ouch.

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