A Twitter guide that’s worth a look

Updated on July 28, 2009

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With headlines ranging from the sublime (ministers and dummies in the Daily Mail) to the ridiculous (‘Big Brother’ in The Guardian), headline-writers in the UK mainstream media have had a field day over the past 24 hours in how they’ve chosen to focus reporting about the template Twitter strategy for government departments published last week (on July 21, to be precise), and which they’ve just found out about.

The 20-page guidelines document was written by Neil Williams, head of corporate digital channels at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). I discovered it last week via a post by Dan Martin and included it as a news item in FIR 468 on July 23 (the audio segment starts at about 27:20).

Whatever you may think of Twitter – and many people’s opinions swing from “What a total waste of time!” to “OMG, it’s our salvation!” – the fact is that more and more people are using this online service as a means to connect with other people, whether that’s for personal or business reasons.

One result is the rash of ‘how to use Twitter’ content that’s been appearing in recent months, much of it bandwagons that so-called ‘Twitter experts’ would persuade you to hitch a ride on.

But some of the more recent content is actually well worth your time in perusing, thinking about, asking questions and learning from as a means to help you get a sense of the breadth and depth of what you could do with Twitter as a communication channel as part of your overall communication strategy.

Notable are Mashable’s guide to Twitter, published in June, and Twitter’s ‘business 101,’ published last week.

I see Neil’s document in that vein. Some of the content may not apply to you – government-specific stuff especially – and not all of it will be relevant to you. You may not agree with some of it, either.

But take a look for yourself – Neil Williams posted his template on the Scribd document-sharing service which I’ve also included here:

Template Twitter Strategy for Government Departments

What I like about Neil’s sharing his thinking in the form of the template is also what he says in his blog post that he’s learned from having produced a document like this:

  • To get buy-in, explain Twitter’s importance to non-believers and the uninitiated, and face down accusations of bandwagon-jumping
  • To set clear objectives and metrics to make sure there’s a return on the investment of staff time (and if there isn’t, we’ll stop doing it)
  • To make sure the channel is used consistently and carefully, to protect corporate reputation from silly mistakes or inappropriate use
  • To plan varied and interesting content, and enthuse those who will provide it into actively wanting to do so
  • As a briefing tool for new starters in the team who will be involved in the management of the channel

This would apply in any organization context, whichever sector you’re in, public or private.

It’s worth a look. Oh, and the most realistic media headline I saw this morning is this one in FutureGov:

Yes, that looks about right.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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