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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]

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.