Uncategorized Twitter - Creative Commons photo by Flickr user shareski

Published on February 2nd, 2009 | by Zachary Shahan


Twitter: The Ultimate Community Organizing Tool?

Twitter, the popular micro-blogging website might also be one of the best tools around for staying informed and getting involved in your community.

[Creative Commons photos by Dean Shareski]

[social_buttons]The short messaging service allows users to post up to 140 character long updates or tweets from their computers or cell phones. Folks can follow each other, keeping an eye on tweets from friends and likeminded people. Since you can pretty much tweet from anywhere, Twitter has evolved into a great resource for first-hand updates about current events. Lately, I’ve noticed that it’s also a fantastic way to get folks to get active!

A Tweet to Action
Not long ago, a friend of mine in East Atlanta tried to call 911 to report an attempted break-in at her house, and no one answered. It just rang and rang. This isn’t the first time Atlanta’s 911 service has failed. When a man snatched my purse last summer, I couldn’t get 911 to pick up either, and other people have complained about the same issue. My friend’s story was really the last straw. I had no idea where to start tackling this issue, so I hit up my Twitter stream. Within ten minutes, I had at least half a dozen replies including names of folks to contact at the state level and a direct message from a local reporter who is working on a story about this very issue.

Twitter’s interface lets users communicate on a personal level, and that connection can be powerful when you’re trying to pull people together. The March coal plant protest coming up in Washington D.C. is another great example of folks using Twitter to mobilize. Adam Shake from Twilight Earth tweeted about participating, along with a link to his article about the protest. His Twitter friends could quickly passed the word along using the retweet function. What a fantastic way to get word around the community!

There are tons of sites that interact with Twitter, but a great one for spreading the word is Hashtags. This service keeps track of tweets that prefix any word with the pound symbol. Crafters have been using this tool to mobilize since the CPSC tried to push through legislation that was going to put most handmade toymakers out of business. Folks tweeted about updates and changes, petitions, and other calls to action. By just sticking #CPSIA into the tweet, they could make sure their info was rounded up over at Hashtags.org.

Hashtags are great, because anything can be a hashtag! Just tack on that pound sign, and you just made one! Voila!

Twitter a powerful tool for getting folks together for events like protests and rallies or to do some guerrilla gardening. Do use Twitter for community organizing or spreading the word about issues that matter to you? How else can individuals use it to make an impact? It’s still a relatively young service, so I’m interested to see how this aspect of it grows are more and more users get involved.

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

8 Responses to Twitter: The Ultimate Community Organizing Tool?

  1. Chris says:

    Twitter certainly can be helpful in “getting the word around”. If you have at least some followers in your community, you can very easily alert them to pressing issues e.g. local environmental problems or a news article with relevance to the community. Quite a handy tool, although I would not recommend using only Twitter to organize an online community. As an addition to more “traditional” methods, however, it can be very useful.

  2. cody says:

    East Atlanta does this with their community watch (crime/safety), in combination with a online forum site. It’s quite inspiring how they’ve come together — hopefully my own neighborhood will be able to follow suit.

    Atlanta’s 911 system definitely has some problems — at least of few of which are related to a technical glitch involving the fact that part of the City is in a different county and it often routes calls improperly — I really wish they’d get that fixed.

  3. Oh awesome! I didn’t know about that! We should work on getting Edgewood to follow suit. Hit me up!

  4. Sabina says:

    Great post. I find Twitter useful in many ways. This examples that you have mentioned are really powerful.

    I just wanted to add – If you tweet about green living or environment, please add your @name to the wiki list of Green Twitterers

  5. We love twitter, only been at it a few months but is easily the best way to keep clients and the community up to date on what we are doing.


  6. Twitter has been invaluable as a tool for quick communication and for connecting with like-minded individuals around the world. While the main twitter stream flows by and is gone, unlike email which sits in your inbox, sending messages using the @username or direct messages provide a way to catch up on only those messages in which you are referenced.

  7. Larger sites often have two different Twitter feeds, one more socially oriented feed and another that’s strictly an RSS feed of their posts. Make sure to look for multiple feeds when you discover a new source you love!

  8. Pingback: #Hashtags for a Greener World – EcoLocalizer

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