For my September NPMG Tweet Like a Boss webinar, I connected with Glenn E. Martin, President and Founder of JustLeadershipUSA, about how he personally uses Twitter to advance his organization’s mission.
JustLeadershipUSA is dedicated to cutting the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030, and its leader Glenn speaks from personal experience. He spent six years incarcerated in a New York State prison in the early 1990s. Today he uses his voice to influence justice policy and lift up the voices of those most impacted. He’s been recognized with honors such at the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and the 2014 Echoing Green Black Male Achievement Fellowship.
Like many Twitter users, Glenn launched a Twitter account early but didn’t immediately see the power of the platform. He caught on, and has Tweeted his way to some extraordinary real-word accomplishments.
When did you really begin using Twitter as a tool for your advocacy?
— Cheryl Roberts (@CherylARoberts) April 1, 2017
I tried to get on Twitter years ago and created an account. My account laid dormant for a while until I had a conversation with the former governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey. He said to me, “Glenn, people look to you as a leader. You should own it.”
That became a moment for leadership, and for me to be thoughtful about what I put out in the world. I started building my brand, and that ran into creating JustLeadershipUSA.
People like following people on Twitter. You have character, perspective. But you have to be ready to engage and respond to feedback. You need a reason for doing it.
How much time do you spend on Twitter per week?
I am on Twitter for 20 minutes here and there, about 10 times a day, so that’s about 3-4 hours a day.
Why do you use Twitter?
I wanted to brand myself. Using Twitter matches my values — fighting for change. Twitter gives me a chance to make my message clear.
Can you describe your tweeting style/approach?
People look to my account to get news on criminal justice reform. I also get my news on Twitter – what others are saying about criminal justice, and listening to opinion leaders.
I mostly use it to sway decision makers and educate the public. If you know who your audience is, you can reach out to influencers to help target them. We’ve worked with influencers such as Russell Simmons and Kerry Kennedy to turn out their base in support of our cause.
Do you have a Twitter success story to share related to your nonprofit/cause?
— Glenn E. Martin (@glennEmartin) March 31, 2017
The CloseRikers campaign was a Twitter success. We got New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio to publicly say yes to closing the prison. It was phenomenal.
Mayor De Blasio cares about his reputation as a progressive. We used that to get his attention and put the pressure on to close the prison.
We logged 25,000 tweets directly at the mayor –100,000,000 impressions on one day. The mayor’s office told us they couldn’t figure out how to neutralize us. They saw all the moments we created on social media.
We got other progressive orgs to jump in, and other progressive leaders to get their bases to tweet. And we got 1,000 people to march across Queens – we used Twitter to mobilize people in real life.
We have a campaign funder that gave us a goal of accomplishing this in 3 years. We got it done in 12 months. It’s a campaign of 165 organizations, and they all have their bases. Our celebrity support has helped add boldness to this campaign.
What advice would you offer to leaders of small to medium-sized nonprofit CEO’s who want to tweet like a boss?
— Glenn E. Martin (@glennEmartin) September 19, 2017
Twitter is a little like fishing. There are moments that don’t have traction and you’re not capturing the fish. It’s worth it for the moment when you put something out in the universe, and someone bites.
You need patience with Twitter, because every once in awhile, it creates a moment.
Also, always been on brand. Be disciplined. I see so many tweets that are political in nature and entertaining, but if you want people to follow you on Twitter, you have to be consistent about what you are and who you are. Why would someone visit you?
Become the champion of a particular thing.
If you run an org, and you have a social media intern, that’s great. But I think that leaders, especially the type that people look up to, must make time to interject their opinion. The truth is, people want your opinion.
Are you interested in boosting your Twitter game? Check out these helpful posts and resources:
- 6 Advanced Twitter Features for Nonprofits
- SHOW US YOUR LISTS: 8 Ideas for Nonprofit Twitter Lists
- Hashtags for Every Day of the Week (Nonprofit Edition)
- How CEOs Can Leverage Twitter (Sloan Management Review)
- How to Use Your CEO’s Twitter Account to Build Brand Loyalty (Convince & Convert)