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Tweet for Good: Tweet to be Retweeted

Pray For Japan Twitter LoveWith 500,000 new accounts each day, Twitter has the ability to spread news and goodwill at a rate never seen before. Especially for smaller non-profits, Twitter is an inexpensive and important way to gain name recognition, new supporters and raise funds.  News about tsunami warnings and wildfire evacuations can be communicated quickly and widely.  “Power Tweeter” ?uestlove (@questlove) of the Roots band told Billboard: “Twitter is the modern-day Paul Revere. Its ripple effect is faster and more effective than almost any type of ad.”

Unfortunately, many agencies and news sources are making it difficult for their followers to “Tweet for Good.”  Long tweets, broken links and confusing headlines can prevent your good – or even essential  — messages from being retweeted by your 1000 followers to their 300 who then pass it on to their 86 or 86,000.  A few simple tweaks can greatly improve your retweet rate.

Shorter, shorter, SHORTER!

Use characters in a tweet as you would any other scarce resource – sparingly.  Ideally, any tweet will have leftover characters to accommodate “RT @Handle” and a comment by anyone who retweets.  The native Twitter apps do simple retweets that do not add information but other clients will add RT @handle in front of the tweet.  Even the official Twitter iPad app has an option to “quote tweet” and add a comment to the retweet.

Also, when a tweeter has to modify the retweet to make it fit 140 characters, it creates a “duplicate tweet” which, according to the official Twitter blog, “buries important content in search results.”  So they request, “If you want to spread information by retweeting, please use the official retweet command on Twitter desktop site, mobile web site and smart phone clients.”  Is this a realistic request from Twitter?  With the widespread usage of TweetDeck, Hootsuite and Tweetcaster, it probably is not.  Therefore, you need to shorten tweets so they can be spread like wildfire.

Recently, the Colorado Front Range has experienced several wildfires.  The Red Cross, Jefferson County Sheriff and local news outlets put out the information that local schools and homes were being evacuated.  All of them had tweets too long to for someone to simply hit a retweet button and stay within 140 characters.  Here are two revisions:

RT @RedCrossDenver: Opening 2 separate evacuation points: pts Evergreen HS for #evergreenfire & First United Methodist Church, 1500 Ford St, for #Goldenfire

RT @KWGNDenver #EvergreenFire Burgundy Middle School, Burgundy Valley and Evergreen Middle School parents need to come and pick up their children

“Middle School” could also be shortened to “MS”. KWGN Denver Channel 2 News has 1,424 followers and only two officially retweeted that tweet.  Anyone using a mobile device is especially unlikely to take the time to edit the tweet before passing it on.  Here we see an incredible loss of potential for communicating the information on a wider scale.

Before sending a tweet, write carefully and proofread.  Is every single word and letter absolutely necessary? Is there an abbreviation commonly used that would work?  Are you spelling out the word “and” instead of using an “&”?

Use URL shorteners

There are several excellent URL shorteners.  The shortening site can be accessed from the Web and now has a mobile device site I use on my iPad. also works automatically in the Twitter client TweetDeck.  Set up a account, link to it in TweetDeck and you’re done!  Whenever you write a tweet and paste in a URL, TweetDeck shortens it automatically to a address. tracks clicks so you can analyze how effective your tweets have been in driving traffic to your website or YouTube channel.

One exception to this rule may be if your site’s URL is already short and descriptive, e.g.

Write compelling and informative tweets

Think of each tweet you send as a headline.  Funny or urgent tweets are those most likely to be retweeted.  You don’t want to turn your tweets into a scavenger hunt.  It should be clear to any reader what you’re communicating before clicking on a link.  Sometimes a little specificity is all that is needed as in this example from CRASH Japan:

RT @LoveonJapan: Project Black Out Beret: An auction to help thousands of earthquake and tsunami victims in northern Japan – #loj #Japan (157 characters on the retweet)

The tweet tells me what I already know: that there were thousands of earthquake and tsunami victims in northern Japan.  But I don’t know what “Project Black Out Beret” is. With “Operation Odyssey” on the brain, the Green Berets are the first thing that comes to my mind.

My rewrite:

RT @LoveonJapan: Project Black Out Beret: An auction of hand knit berets to help victims in Japan – #loj #Japan

An interesting variation could be:

RT @LoveonJapan What do you do during 3-hr blackouts? Knit berets! Project Black Out Beret auction to help Japan: #loj #Japan

Each tweet should be a single message.  If you have a lot to say, break it down into 100 character, bite-sized pieces.  A good rule of thumb is “One Tweet – One URL – One Message.”

For more ideas on writing headlines, see the How-to Twitter article “How to Write Tweets that Get Clicks.”

Just ask

Once you have written a tweet that is easy to retweet, ask your followers to spread the word.  Actor and Twitter stand-up comedian George Takei (@georgetakei – 67,143 followers) does this on a regular basis:

@GeorgeTakei Please take a moment to watch then RT this video about the spirit of “Gaman” in Japan.

@GeorgeTakei What’s next, an app that converts Jews or whitens blacks? Pls read, sign & RT this petition.

Twitter stops counting after the first 100 official retweets.

Around the world 24/7

A retweetable message will travel far and wide, and at times that you would not even anticipate:

In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Take your inspiration from Longfellow but please tweet in 100 characters or less.

This is part 1 of a 2 part blog series. Make sure you read Part 2: Engage the Crowd.

Gretchen VaughnProfessionally, Gretchen Vaughn is a social media enthusiast and writes about the iPad for Examiner.  She can be contacted on Twitter @ipaddenver or

Personally, Gretchen is an avid Twilighter and conducts the Twilidiot’s Tuesday Twilight Trivia on Twitter contest.  Follow @twilidiot from 9-11p ET to play.  After connecting on Twitter through a mutual adoration of actor Robert Pattinson, she and @MelbieToast created designs to raise funds for relief organizations working in Japan.  Please visit their store at

Social Media Responds to Japan

The devastation in Japan is beyond comprehension. While electricity and phone service have been hugely affected, leaving many survivors without either, the Internet has remained virtually unaffected. This makes social media not just an effective means of communication, but one of the only means.

The wreckage in the aftermath of this tragedy is horrendous – and the use of social media has been incredible. It is becoming the go-to technology for emergency and disaster relief, management, communication and recovery.

One of the most amazing features of social media is the ability for swift response. Whether it is communication about real-time events, sharing news or raising disaster relief funds, social media has immediate and worldwide impact on all aspects of emergency and disaster management.

The earthquake and tsunami hit at the start of SXSW (South by Southwest), the biggest music and social media conference of the year. SXSW jumped into immediate action, launching to get attendees and followers of the conference to donate to Japan.  They are offering free tickets as incentives for non-attendees and asking all the attendees to tweet and Facebook links to the donation site.


Twitter was the number 1 social network used for anything relating to the earthquake and tsunami. The Tweet-o-Meter, a website that tracks twitter usage per minute, has pretty much remained pegged at 1200 tweets per minute for usage in Tokyo since the disaster began.


Hashtags are a way to keyword identify a tweet, so people who are following a topic can use that keyword to track the topic. According to Mashable, the most popular hashags are #Japan, #JPQuake, #JapanQuake, #PrayForJapan, #Tsunami and #TsunamiCharity; real-time Tweet map; Save Japan (updates in Japanese); and the UN’s Must-Follow Twitterers

Twitter posted a blog, in Japanese and English, that details how you can help by using Twitter.


Relief and resources pages popped up almost immediately on Facebook. Nearly every major relief non-profit is using their Facebook Fan Page to help raise money for Japan.

Japan Earthquake reports news and information regarding the disaster.

Solidarity with the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan 2011 is a Belgian page created to show support and communicate news about Japan.

Dog Bless You is a non-profit that assists with rescue operations. They are sending a team to Japan to use dogs in the human rescue effort. is donating $1 for every Like the Dog Bless You page receives.

American Red-Cross has a page on Causes, a Facebook app that lets people donate to charities on Facebook.

Save the Children also has a page on Causes.

Farmville, Cityville and Frontierville, games on Facebook created by the company Zynga, have partnered with Save the Children’s Japan Earthquake Tsunami Emergency Fund to get their users to purchase virtual goods for the games as a way to donate to the fund.  100% of the proceeds from the purchase of sweet potatoes in CityVille, radishes in FarmVille or Kobe cows in FrontierVille will go towards Save the Children’s efforts to provide relief in the Pacific.


Some of the most poignant imagery from Japan has been coming from videos posted on YouTube.  Personal video accounts of the disaster is giving all of us an experience that communicates the immense impact of what has happened.

If you search YouTube for Japan Tsunami the video results will be overwhelming, from news to personal videos from around the world.


Tweet Map

Map enthusiast Virender Ajmani (@mibazaar) created a tweet map.  This is a map that displays a new tweet every 5 seconds from Japan.  The tweets are from within a 600 km radius of Tokyo, Japan and are tagged with either earthquake or japan or tsunami.

YouTube Map

Virender Ajmani also created a YouTube map that shows Geotagged videos from within an 800 km radius of Tokyo, Japan that are tagged “Earthquake/Tsunami”.  Geotagged videos means that the video has been tagged, or identified, as being from a certain location.

Seismic Activity created a map that shows you the seismic activity and the size of the earthquakes that hit Japan.


Photos from journalists and photographers to camera phones are streaming into Flickr tagged with Japan Earthquake, Japan Tsunami

Live Video

Live video has been streaming from myriad sources around the world. Here are a few:


Google has created Crisis Response and Japan Person Finder to help with the disaster.  Crisis Response gives emergency information, including numbers for missing persons, and information for relief donations.

The Japan Person Finder is a page that lets you put in a report for a missing person or share information you might have on a missing person.


The American Red Cross is taking text donations, like they did with Haiti. If you would like to donate to their Japan Earthquake Relief, just text REDCROSS to 90999. Each text provides $10 towards the Red Cross’ humanitarian efforts.

Other Resources

  • Blog RSS feed: Japan Earthquake is a blog feed that is streaming blog posts from major news sources, reporters and bloggers.
  • Internet Browser Toolbar: Tsunami news in your toolbar is a tool bar that normally streams internet radio, but now has a feature allowing your to stream news about the disaster in the toolbar of your internet browser.
  • Hellobar: The hello bar is a tool that allows you to add a bar to the top of your web page that displays a message. Look at the top of this page and you will see my Hellobar. The company is allowing people to sign-up (which has been previously limited) in order to have a support Japan Hellobar.
  • iTunes: Created a donation page making it easy to use your iTunes account to donate to the Red Cross.

There are resources and networks all over the Internet sharing information, connecting people, streaming news and images and bringing all of us closer to the realities of what happened in Japan.  The ones I listed are just examples of what is available.  The call to action from the social media community has been tremendous. Where we were just starting to get an idea of the effects of the earthquakes and tsunami, we were also just starting to get an idea of the effects of social media in relation to the disaster.  It makes me proud to be a part of the community that is mobilizing rescue, communication, fundraising, information and a worldwide community effort to help our international neighbors.