Thursday, July 19, 2012

Charity can’t understand its own tweets

No one at Metro’s largest charity can understand their own Twitter feed. The staff and volunteers at the Metro Community Foundation Trust say they find the tweets very complicated and difficult to read.

After trying to avoid using social media for years, the Trust final tasked communications officer Barb Smiley with the job of starting a Twitter page, as well as a Facebook page and a YouTube channel. The new social media worked well for several months until Barb started using more complicated Tweets aimed at the Trust’s 40,000 donors.

“Barb is a wonderful person. She’s been working very hard trying to understand all this social media stuff, and that’s great. But now, I can’t understand her,” said Dibble Brewer, CEO of the Trust.

Last week, Barb issued a Tweet from the Trust’s Twitter account called “MCFT Attwicted”. In it, Barb wrote “ICNBI, #MCFT is Attwicted to #Twitter #Fundraising.”

The week before, Barb wrote a Tweet that said “#MCFT is an artwt, not #Splatter.”

Other times, the Tweets feature strange URLs that look like a collision of letters and symbols. In fact, the Tweet feed at the Trust’s website has so many “#’s”, “@’s” and micro-URLs links that many of the charity’s older donors have complained that they are using “profanity”.

Brewer was initially supportive of Barb’s efforts, but began to question the Tweets when people would ask her about them.

“I have no idea what ‘IMHO, #MCFT’s gala dinner was the #Best’ means. Members of the Board wanted to know what it meant, and I couldn’t tell them. I think it means something positive, but for all I know, it might in fact be telling our donors to go eat horse poop,” Brewer recalled.

Things got worse when Barb began to include Twitter-talk in emails and memos. Staff complained. Many thought that Barb was trying to “show off”. One thought she might have had a stroke while typing on her keyboard and was trying to call for help. This prompted a frantic office-wide search for Barb, who was out at lunch at the nearby Internet café. Police and fire fighters were waiting when she returned.

Brewer says unless Barb can start using plain English in her Tweets she may have to pull the plug on the whole social media thing, which she says is a “passing fad anyways”, “like yoyos”.

“I never should have agreed to let Barb start using social media. It’s turned her into another person,” said Brewer. “I don’t understand social media. I just want her to go back to writing press releases that no one ever reads.”

When told about the problems that the Twitter account was causing, Barb expressed shock and dismay.

“LMFAO, DYK #MCFT could be such a whoot?” she said in an email to all staff members.