Tweet to the End of Breast Cancer

By Teri Fuller, National Breast Cancer Coalition, END Breast Cancer Illinois

Teri Fuller

In 2009, the Special Olympics launched an online advocacy campaign asking people to stop using the word “retarded” in harmful, demeaning ways. This campaign, “Spread the Word to End the Word,” strategically and effectively used social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to accomplish this mission. One particular online milestone that demonstrates the power of Twitter occurred when Special Olympics advocates tweeted their campaign at John Mayer, a popular musician. Mayer then retweeted the campaign to his 1.5 million followers, which in large part was responsible for the campaign going viral and helping them to reach more than 3.8 million people.

As NBCC advocates, we can learn from the Special Olympics’ strategy to harness the online power of Twitter in accomplishing Breast Canceer Deadline 2020®.

So what is Twitter? By design, Twitter is a social media tool that publishes textual sound-bytes. Similar to a traditional sound-byte that lasts only nine seconds, a tweet only consists of 140 characters. So in “snackable” bites, you can raise awareness of NBCC’s mission and get people to take action and help us end breast cancer by 2020.

But you already use Facebook, right? And that’s great, but keep in mind that Facebook and Twitter address two very different audiences: Facebook connects you with a personal network (friends, family, colleagues, etc.); Twitter connects you with an impersonal network (fellow advocates, organizations, experts in the field, journalists, etc.). The prevailing wisdom is that 80 percetnt of your Facebook followers are local, and 80 percent of your Twitter followers are national. So you can meet, interact, learn from, and teach a whole new set of people—some of which are very powerful online movers and shakers who can substantially help further our cause (a la the John Mayer phenomenon).

How to Set Up a Twitter Account

1. Go to
2. Sign up for Twitter by entering required information (i.e. Full Name, Email, and Password).
3. Note: When creating your account, choose a handle, or name for yourself, that reflects your identity. Some people choose to use variations of their name (i.e. @firstlastname); some people choose to use words reflective of their advocacy work (i.e. @breastcancerdeadline2020).
4. Start following people. There are lots of important people and/or organizations to follow. Here are just a few to get you started:

@deadline2020 (NBCC) (me)
@lizszabo (Health Writer for USA Today).

5. Personalize your profile by adding an image (photo and/or symbol) and a short bio about yourself (160 characters or less). This may be a great place to link to NBCC’s website and NBCC’s Petition to the President.

How Twitter Works

1. People’s names, or handles, are preceeded by an @ symbol, so my Twitter name is @bigshotfuller. If you follow me, you will see my tweets preceeded by this handle, and you can also make sure I read your tweets by tweeting at me. You do this by including @bigshotfuller in your tweet.

2. The # symbol, or hashtag, is used to mark key words or topics in a tweet. If you create a tweet about NBCC’s Deadline 2020, you could add the hashtag #breastcancer, and other people interested in that topic could find your tweet as well.

How to Compose a Tweet

1. Present your main point.
2. Capture the reader’s interest.
3. Include a hashtag such as #breastcancer or #deadline2020 to indicate the topic of your tweet.
4. Tweet directly at anyone who may be interested in reading and/or retweeting your message (i.e. @deadline2020).
5. Include a link that allows interested parties to learn more about your topic and/or take action.

How to Tweet Most Effectively

1. Present the main message of your tweet clearly, succinctly as 98 percent of followers won’t click on included link.
2. Tweet at different times throughout the day as the average tweet lifespan is 10 minutes.
3. Think, more specifically, about when your audience may read your tweets. The Twitter sweet spots tend to be between 6-8am, 12-2pm, and 8-11pm, but you should begin to gauge your own audience. Tweet during identified peak times.

Your First Twitter Homework

Now that you have created a Twitter account and know the basics, it’s time to compose your first Tweet. You may copy the example below or make one up for yourself.


40K people die of #breastcancer in the #US each year. Want to end it? Sign this petition now: @bigshotfuller Pls RT.

After that, you will begin building your national network. People will follow you, and you will follow them. You will learn from others, and they will learn from you as you raise awareness of NBCC’s critical mission to end breast cancer by 2020. And maybe—just maybe—we can make our mission go viral just like the Special Olympics’ campaign did in 2009.

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