Mobilizing Homelessness Research

Tip Sheet - 2011 Ontario Education Research Symposium


Choose a name for your blog: Pick something that is short and catchy and also reflects who you are and what your content will address. Subtitles can address the need to explain more. For instance, “Research Matters” alone is insufficient. It leads to questions like, what kind of research? However, “Research Matters: Finding Solutions to Homelessness” clearly identifies the blog’s subject area.

Individual blog post titles are equally important and can be used to grab people’s attention. A post title will determine whether or not someone chooses to read your blog. Being provocative (but honest) is an essential strategy in creating blog titles. For example, “Should we give money to panhandlers?” is more provocative than “Alberta’s approach to panhandling.”

The first paragraph is used to set the tone for the rest of the blog, but also keep people’s attention and entice them to continue reading.

The body of your blog post should contain titles, subtitles and different font styles (i.e. bold, italic) that quickly and easily explain the content found within your short paragraphs. This makes it easy for your reader to quickly scan the content and figure out if there’s something of interest to them. Most people will determine within 5 seconds whether they want to read your post or not. Large paragraph after paragraph is not a successful way to grab people’s attention.

Pictures and graphics can help break up large pieces of content and make your post more engaging and enticing to potential readers.

To finish off a good blog post, pose a question as your final sentence (i.e. So, how do we reconcile the success of housing first in the face of housing crisis?) or direct to further readings on the subject.

Get into a routine of blogging. Make it part of your daily or weekly routine. If you update your blog frequently, more people will return on a regular basis to read it. Establishing a reader base will motivate you to write more and in turn more people will read your posts.


Setting up your profile is fast and easy. Take five minutes (literally) and keep the following in mind:

It starts with a name. Twitter usernames seem to be more effective when they represent an organization rather than an individual (unless of course you’re famous, then take advantage of your name!). For instance, Homeless Hub has been more successful than AllysonMarsolais. Be sure to add a profile image. Again, logos seem to work better than actual head shots. Your brief bio should include information about the type of content you’ll tweet about. For instance, “A single place to find homelessness information from across Canada” will draw more users compared to “I like poetry and long walks on the beach!” And add a link that directs people to your website or blog so that people can learn more about you and your work.

Stick to your agenda. Don’t tweet about homelessness one minute and then about your clueless neighbour the next. You will lose credibility and potentially followers.

Follow others and retweet a lot. When you do these two things, those you follow and retweet will become aware of your presence on Twitter. Once they check you out and see that you tweet about stuff that is relevant and of interest to them, they will follow you and retweet your content to all of their followers. This builds momentum and snowball effect!

Always provide a link! Stating something without backing it up is not very helpful. For instance, tweeting a statistic without proof is pointless. However, the tweet:

30-40% of homeless youth identify as sexual minorities: 
has more credibility.

Ration your tweets! Twitter users who tweet continuously are seen as ‘noisy’, and often loose followers. Spread your tweets over time. Don’t overdo the amount of tweets you broadcast. Remember: quality over quantity.

Know when to tweet! Scheduling your tweets effectively is important. When you have important messages to tweet, make sure you broadcast them at peak times. The best time to tweet is when people arrive in the office between 8 and 10 am. As the main Twitter population lives in Europe and in the States, consider the different time zones. Also, weekends have low Twitter traffic, so don’t waste too much time tweeting over the weekend.

Tweet your topic multiple different ways. Your first tweet might grab the attention of some of your followers, but not others. This will also keep a particular piece of content (report, blog, article, etc.) on people’s minds for a longer period of time. Here’s an example:

1) Only by ensuring sufficient supply of affordable housing can central tenet of housing 1st be protected: consumer choice
2) Criticism of housing 1st: ppl often given housing in remote areas, far removed from services & poorly served by transit
Don’t forget that tweets can be no longer than 140 characters, including spaces, punctuation and the link you provide to the report, which is usually about 15 characters. That means your tweet can only be 125 characters long. And consider the use of “hashtags” described during the workshop portion.

Lastly, add your Twitter username to all your websites and email signatures. This will draw people’s attention to your Twitter account even when outside the Twitterverse!


Figure out your audience in advance and provide content and news that is of interest to them. You can’t be everything to everyone, so try to be very important to some instead!

Just like blog posts, titles (or email subject lines) are important for e-newsletters. This will grab people’s attention and determine whether they open the email or not, so make the subject line catchy. “Newsletter Issue 5” doesn’t sound half as interesting as “Should we give money to panhandlers?” Remember, it’s about the content not the tool that delivers the content.

Keep it short and sweet and organize your content for quick and easy perusing. Provide a teaser that is easily digestible for each piece of content and then a link. Most people spend about 90 seconds looking at online newsletters, so brief, concise articles with descriptive titles work best. You can always end your brief paragraphs with "Read more here.” This is also a terrific way to drive traffic back to your website!

Being regular and consistent will also create a sense of reliability with your audience who will start to expect your emails and even look forward to them. So, pick a date (first Tuesday of every month) and stick to it!

Be consistent. Decide on a standard number of articles and a standard format for writing articles! Always use the same colours and placement of elements within your newsletter. This will help in a number of ways: you'll build "brand identity" with your subscribers and they will find it easier to scan and read your newsletters if things are always in the same place.

Lastly, test, test, test! Before you send out your e-newsletter to the hundreds or thousands of subscribers on your mailing list, send a test email to yourself and a few colleagues. This will allow you to catch errors (broken links, spelling mistakes, etc). The fewer mistakes you have, the more likely you will be to keep your subscribers and to have them recommend you to others.

Facebook Page

While Twitter encourages you to grab ideals in short snippets, Facebook is better suited to display more detailed posts, complete with images and links. It also acts as a forum, where users can ask questions and leave feedback. The best part is, you can customize your page to showcase your YouTube videos, Twitter tweets and RSS feeds from your website so that the page can maintain itself with little effort on your part.

The distinction between a Facebook group and page is significant. With a Group, followers only see your content when they go directly to your group. Therefore the impetus is on the user to find you. With a Page, all of your content makes its way onto your users’ newsfeeds. Therefore when someone logs on to Facebook, your content is front and centre. They can’t help but see it. Essentially, a page allows you to take your content to them!

Publication Date: 
Toronto, ON, Canada