In case you were born yesterday or have been living underground for the past decade, Twitter is kind of a big deal. Especially for nonprofits. Thanks to its awesome potential for relationship building, fundraising and marketing, Twitter has become a bustling network for organizations to connect with their target audiences and each other. It’s a great platform to engage and interact with your supporters, draw attention to and raise support for your cause, and exchange information with and learn from other organizations and experts. Not only can you toot your own horn by tweeting about your nonprofit, you can also share great content and news you want your followers to know about and spotlight other causes or organizations you want to support. Being part of the tweetosphere helps keep you updated about what is going on in the nonprofit world, alerts you to trending topics, drives traffic to your website and blog, expands your reach to new audiences, and more. So then… Are you on Twitter? If so, good. If not, you should be. Either way, keep reading because you need to make sure you’re tweeting effectively for maximum impact. Whether you’re creating your first account or just need a refresher course, here are 11 easy tips for nonprofits about the basics of setting up your profile, following trends and hashtags, and deciding how and what to tweet.

1. Retweet, retweet, RETWEET.

It’s not all about you. No one wants to hear you talk about yourself all of the time. Get involved and interact with other accounts. Retweet to share relevant tweets and promote organizations or individuals to your followers. You can use the retweet button or even quote tweet to add a little something of your own too.

2. Check out trending topics.

See if any of them fit with conversations relevant to your organization or cause, and if so, take part in them. Doing so can open your message up to a wider and different audience.

3. USE HASTAGS.

I mean, what is Twitter without hashtags? They’re basically a requirement. You can use existing ones or create your own. Use them to find and join in on relevant conversations and trending topics that your audience is involved in. Users use hashtags to find topics they care about and related accounts, so hashtag major buzzwords so people that follow certain terms are able to find you. Just make sure not to overuse hashtags and avoid creating ones that are too long as this can distract from the actual content in your tweets. Include only those that are relevant to your organization and audience.

4. Make it personal and be authentic.

It’s simple – people like people. No one wants to read a bunch of tweets that seem like they’re mass-produced from a machine. Your followers want to know that behind that handle, there’s a real, live person who actually cares about your cause. Try to reveal your own and your organization’s personalities through your account. Tweet pictures of attendees at events. Share information about your staff, volunteers and followers. You want to keep it professional, but don’t be afraid to share a funny or inspiring tweet that will make your followers laugh or think deeply.

5. Ask questions.

Ask related questions to get your followers personally connected and involved. Not only will this get your audience to care about your organization and cause, but it’s useful for you too. Twitter is a great tool to use to conduct research, solicit ideas, identify connections and gain information about your supporters.

6. Promote your success… to an extent.

Publicize upcoming events or recognize your achievements by tweeting messages and photos that tell your nonprofit’s story. This will not only lend credibility to your cause, but is also an effective way to reach potential donors and volunteers. But be wary, this should only account for a moderate percentage of what you tweet. If all you ever talk about is you, no one is going to pay attention. Tweet other things that people care about too. Share links to interesting blogs or newsworthy articles related to your cause, retweet and promote other accounts, and participate in relevant conversations.

7. Don’t rapid fire tweet. i.e. don’t tweet a whole bunch of times all in a row.

You should tweet frequently, but try to space them out. Over-tweeting can annoy users and prompt them to unfollow you. Make sure that you aren’t tweeting just to tweet; everything you tweet should be something of value. It’s okay to tweet about the same thing more than once, but make sure to reword tweets and spread them out over time. Try using a platform like Hootsuite or TweetDeck to schedule your tweets ahead of time.

8. Tweet in the moment.

Sure you have a strategy for what you want to tweet and when, but don’t be afraid to throw in some spontaneous tweets too! You can live tweet events or share updates with your followers as they happen. You never know when something tweet-worthy might pop up, so put the Twitter app on your phone so you can tweet anytime, anywhere. If you’re tweeting at an event, use an event hashtag to take part in conversations during the event and continue the discussion afterwards.

9. Keep it short.

I mean, this is kind of obvious seeing that tweets are limited to 140 characters. Nonetheless, keep your tweets under 120 characters to make them more sharable and enhance your retweetability. Tweets between 100 and 115 characters are more likely to be retweeted, as are tweets containing a link. But don’t forget that links and photos add 22 characters, so make sure accompanying text is clear and concise. Leave enough characters at the end of your tweets so users can manually retweet. You might discourage potential retweets if they have to shorten your tweet for you. Keeping it 120 characters or less gives others enough room to add comments while still including your handle and the full text of your original tweet. This is a great way to spark conversations with your followers, so encourage them to share their insights with your content.

10. Be professional and optimize your find-ability.

You want people to actually follow you, right? Well then, make sure they’re able to find you. Use a Twitter handle and name users can easily recognize as related to your organization. Fill out your profile details so people can understand who you are and decide if they want to follow you. Your profile should contain the name of your organization, relevant keywords and a link to your website or blog. Also, make sure your account isn’t set to private or else people won’t be able to see your tweets.

11. Personalize your page.

Use your organization’s logo for your profile image to optimize brand recognition. Having the thumbnail next to your handle will give followers an easy way to immediately connect your Twitter to your organization. Make sure to also change your background from one of the standard designs and personalize it to fit your brand.