Four years ago when I started using Twitter on behalf of nonprofits, it wasn’t yet an established medium crucial to winning elections, fomenting revolutions, and locating cupcake trucks. Back then I was often left to run organizations’ Twitter handles on my own and had to explain over and over again what I was doing and how I was helping make connections with influential activists, reporters and Congressional staffers.

It’s different these days – it seems many organizations commit resources to whatever new social platform comes out. People now tell me that they don’t have enough followers, wonder how many tweets they should “push out” every day, or say they can’t accurately measure how well they’re doing. Today many communications professionals are convinced of the importance of social media like Twitter, but are trying to force methods and thinking from a traditional broadcast world into tools designed for a world where information flows.

Twitter can do so much more than help you “push” messages and content. When used effectively as tool for listening and monitoring, Twitter can be a lens through which you can observe the flow of information and culture. You can not only receive information, you’ll also perceive where information came from, where it’s going, and where it might go tomorrow. This perception will help inform all sorts of communications activities: writing subject lines for constituent emails, pitching reporters, creating content that will reach your audiences, identifying new potential donors or customers, sounding really smart in meetings, etc.

You can find out how to do all this in Fenton’s new guide Short & Sweet: The Whys and Hows of Twitter for Communications Professionals. The guide outlines how to use Twitter as yourself and on behalf of your organization, including: Getting started; monitoring and listening; linking, hashtagging and retweeting; dos and don’ts for tweeting on behalf of your organization; and a daily 30 minute Twitter routine to help you stay focused, with a cheat sheet to help you along. For newbies, the guide is a concise and vivid introduction; for those already using the medium it can help focus Twitter activities on organization goals and provide language and guidelines for bringing colleagues and leadership on board.

Have questions or tips, stories and metaphors of your own to share? Chime in on the comments or Tweet at us (@fentonprogress).