By Gina Cuclis
is the Director of Community and Government Relations for the Redwood Community Health Coaltion (RCHC
). RCHC is a network of community health centers in northern California's Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Yolo counties.
Pedro and I have been following each other on Twitter
since 2009. I've been impressed with his informative, engaging tweets. I believe he sets a good example for how local nonprofits can effectively, and meaningfully, use Twitter. I say meaningfully, because too many nonprofits in our North Bay region haven't gotten beyond using Twitter to announce their events and information about themselves.
Advice Worth Following
I interviewed Pedro about his Twitter use. Initially I shared his advice at workshops I conducted for nonprofits and public agencies. Here is most of that interview, which was conducted via e-mail.
Why did you start using Twitter for RCHC?
Every year, the national association of community health centers hosts a an advocacy conference in Washington DC. Two years ago, they promoted getting community health center advocates onto Twitter. I already had an account, but had not been using it much. I started using it after this conference. I thought it would be a good way to keep in touch with health center advocates from across the country. Initially, the goal wasn’t to promote health centers or increase our visibility locally, but to communicate information about what community clinics in Sonoma, Napa, Marin and Yolo counties are doing in our local community to state and national health center advocates.
What do you tweet about and why?
I tweet about issues that are important to health care advocates, our community clinic leaders, and to our 160,000+ patients (most of whom are Latino). Twitter provides an opportunity to keep multiple stakeholders aware of our progress and helps me to keep up with the latest information on policy and advocacy issues of interest to health centers. Increasingly, I also use twitter to disseminate information about events and programs that our local partner organizations are doing.
How has Twitter helped you promote RCHC and Health Centers?
Twitter has helped to communicate our local advocacy agenda to our sister clinics and clinic networks across the nation. It's an easy way to stay connected with health center advocates from all over the country. Thanks to Twitter I have developed strong relationship with health advocates from all over the country (many of whom I haven’t even met in person). The best thing is that I get as-it-happens information directly from the people who are leading change in their communities.
RCHC clinics are in the news quite a bit, and I share this information with my “tweeps”. This helps to increase the visibility of what we are doing. Also, our national trade association regularly highlights my tweets in their weekly bulletin, which helps to increase our visibility with community clinic leaders who are not on twitter.
Do you get feedback from your health center members about your use of Twitter? What?
I get quite a bit more feedback from community members, including members of the media, than from our health center members. Community members usually want to know more about RCHC or our health centers, others want to learn how they can partner with us on projects or programs. Reporters usually tweet me for information about our health centers, or to ask if I know someone in other parts of the health care delivery system that can help them understand an issue they are working on.
What one or two pieces of advice do you have for nonprofits who are thinking about using Twitter?
Twitter is very easy to learn once you learn the basic rules. I would recommend creating an account and linking up with your current partners immediately. Once you become a proficient twitter user, you’ll find that people start finding you. It is a great tool for forging relationships with other people and organizations. Maintaining and building relationships requires some level of investment, but you should start an account as soon as possible.
What else does Pedro advise? To follow @ginacuclis for PR and social media tips. And I recommend you follow him, @pedrotoleda, to learn by example.
What do you think about Pedro's advice? If you're not using Twitter, does this inspire you to get started? Your comments are appreciated.