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Guest Post by Florence Broder: How the Jewish Agency Uses Twitter to Connect Meaningfully

7 Comments 09 August 2010

The Jewish Agency for Israel was founded in 1929 and was the pre-Israel government before there was a state. Following the founding of the State of Israel, the Jewish Agency was mandated with aliyah, or the immigration of Jews from around the world to Israel, as well as Jewish Zionist education. Today its mission is to:

Inspire Jews throughout the world to connect with their people, heritage and land, and empower them to build a thriving Jewish future and a strong Israel.

A little over a year ago the Jewish Agency for Israel launched its social media presence. At the time, the decision was to communicate our message aggressively and to reach out to a new audience by using the latest portals. When social media accounts were opened, it was a no-brainer to create a Facebook Page, YouTube channel, and a Flickr stream. Twitter was the wild card in the batch. How could anything important be communicated in 140 characters, essentially a tweet? It seemed a bit ridiculous.

Quickly I immersed myself in a new language of RTs, hashtags, URL shorteners, and the entire twitterverse! Originally, my name was not listed on the Twitter account but there was a disconnect. It seemed artificial for an entire organization to have one voice. There are just so many voices, personalities, and more. How could an organization have a voice? How could it engage an audience? How would we ever be able to keep up with all the different conversations going on? It seemed unnatural. Soon I updated the profile and attached my name to the account; I was finally able to project my professional self on behalf of the organization. It helped people to see that there was a voice behind the organization. Followers began addressing me by name and knew that I would respond to their questions about aliyah or anything else. I also took my virtual connection with the audience and made it real by attending Tweetups. It not only helped me put a face to the tweet, but strengthened our online relationship. Maya Norton’s New Jew blog about Jewish philanthropy has commented several times about our social media:

“I’ve been monitoring the Jewish Agency for Israel’s social media decisions for several years and am impressed with their strategic choices. Smart moves for a historic institution…[Their social media is] much better than most organizations. Even if there are some glitches, it’s certainly on the right track.”

Our Facebook Page has over 7000 fans and we have great traffic on YouTube and Flickr, but it is the Jewish Agency Twitter feed that has left its mark. It has successfully strengthened our brand, connected a younger demographic, and helped a broader audience better understand our mission. We have received this feedback from social media professionals, Jewish professionals, lay leaders, as well as from the “tweeple” themselves. In May 2009 the JTA named us the 7th most influential Jewish organization and a year later we are in 3rd and 4th on WeFollow.com for Israel-related and Jewish-related Twitter accounts respectively.

I have often been asked why I think the Twitter has feed been so successful? Frankly, I understood Twitter as a medium versus Facebook or another social media portal. Moreover, I understood that we had an audience who was just as invested in the Jewish Agency brand as we are. I listened to what they had to say and responded. Whether it was a question about aliyah or a Masa Israel program (the umbrella organization for long-term experience programs in Israel), I always ensure that followers receive the information they need in a timely matter and keep them in the loop about the status. Follow-up on Twitter is so critical because it is very much a customer service tool. True, it also is used for marketing, outreach, and other needs, but customer service is the number one reason that people remain our followers and have such a positive view about it. Charlie Kalech, one of our followers, turned to me about a year ago for assistance with aliyah cases. In his words:

“Florence has put a human face on the Jewish Agency. When I was helping potential immigrants who did not know where else to turn to get answers, I could send Florence a direct message on Twitter and get a direct response cutting through the bureaucracy which had previously rendered no satisfactory response. The Jewish agency’s presence on Twitter has given people like this someone to talk to.”

Now when people say, “Twitter? I don’t get it.” I laugh and respond, “Don’t underestimate the power of a tweet.” What a difference a year makes…

Florence Broder is the Social Media Manager for the Jewish Agency for Israel. In her position she has successfully launched a Facebook fan page for the Jewish Agency in February which now has over 4000 members and also launched a Twitter feed which today has over 2200 followers.

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  • andystitt829

    Great story, thanks for sharing! It's inspiring to hear that you've been able to use social media so effectively to help your constituents, which gives me hope that I can do the same for my organization.

    Side note: I am a member of the tribe, and my father is from Tel Aviv, so I do have an extra appreciation for what you do aside from just being a fellow non-profit employee.

    [Reply]

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  • Florence Broder

    Hi Andy,

    I learn from our audience every day and I feel good that I am using the medium on behalf of the Jewish Agency to make an impact. It's really what keeps me going. It's truly humbling. Feel free to be in touch. I am a big believer in peer sharing.

    [Reply]

  • Florence Broder

    Hi Andy,

    I learn from our audience every day and I feel good that I am using the medium on behalf of the Jewish Agency to make an impact. It's really what keeps me going. It's truly humbling. Feel free to be in touch. I am a big believer in peer sharing.

    [Reply]

  • Maya Norton

    Florence, my dream post. I only wish I’d been bold enough to ask you for it, but I’m glad to read it here on Debra’s blog, one I enjoy so thoroughly.

    Thanks for the shout out. The question of using a personal name on your organization’s Twitter page is one that I struggle with as the institutional tweeter for Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (www.twitter.com/BenGurionU).

    I also co-administer BGU’s Facebook page (http://tinyurl.com/BGUonFB) and have added my contact information and recently begun signing my name to comments with good results. (For those not familiar with Facebook fanpages, an administrator’s posts come out under the page’s logo/identity; you can’t post on a page that you manage using your personal identity.) But Facebook differs significantly from Twitter in that adding your name and contact information on Facebook is part of a block of information about the page whereas Twitter provides so little space, so that all information provided has the effect of seeming to be in bold.

    Was this a hard sell for the Jewish Agency to allow you to use your name? How did this conversation take place? Would love to hear more about your learning process- if you are at leave to share.

    All the best,

    ~ Maya Norton

    – The New Jew: Microblog (http://tinyurl.com/TheNewJew)
    – The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy & Social Innovation- home blog (http://TheNewJew.wordpress.com)

    [Reply]

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Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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