Okay, so I admit that I’ve been on the fence on this issue for quite a while now. Last year, I started off as a Twitter effectiveness denier, and then quickly found myself making use of it more and more (especially as new, sister-applications were developed). My own main use is simply “being in the know”. I love the fact that I find out about something AS IT HAPPENS. It’s a sense that not every type of person may appreciate, but it’s definitely worth something. Whether you like it or not, if you’re in communications or marketing, you may soon have no choice.
Consider these stats:
- 2.5 million monthly users
- Over 428,000 tweets a day
- Representation from nearly every country on earth
So what’s the big deal? Why should someone working in the government even care?
- These are conversations going on right now!
- You can easily filter, aggregate, and respond
- A single post can blow your PR release out of the water in terms of search engine visibility.
- The medium allows for amplification (via rss)
Tips to get started as a Twitter’ for a government department:
- Create a profile that clearly identifies you as an employee (e.g. JohnSmith@HealthCanada). You can have a separate “personal” account but I would recommend having one and one only since you should be speaking as a “human voice” anyway. Don’t forget to add a photo!
- Use Twhirl or Tweetdeck to manage everything and make your actual posts (instead of going to the web site). These apps are based on Adobe AIR, which essentially means they take very little system resources and are ridiculously easy to use.
- If you’re so desperate on time that you can’t even manage to write 140 characters, you can use Twittertise or Tweetlater to schedule Tweets if you do things on a regular schedule. For example, if your news release must go out everyday by 9am, have Twittertise send out a 9am tweet “Just posted a news release for Health Canada…” with a link. You even get to track responses and views.
- My personal favourite is of course Twitter Search which I use pretty much 90% of the time I’m doing anything related to Twitter. Use this to track what people are talking about RIGHT NOW! You can use specific keywords, names, or simply look at the trending topics if relevant. Note that once you enter a query and start browsing through the results, Twitter Search will post a little message mentioning how many new tweets were posted since you pressed enter. Type in Sarah Palin just for fun and see for yourself.
- Start following other government employees right now!Â (thank youÂ Nedra WeinreichÂ for reminding me). Here is aÂ list of government Twitter users from theÂ U.SÂ and aÂ list of U.K government Twitter users.Â I’m yet to find a Canadian list…perhaps I’ll make one myself one of these days.
Make no mistake, I fully understand that public sector organizations are in a different boat and have much more red tape and/or stagnancy than the private sector. However guess what? That doesn’t have to affect you! You can start using Twitter right now. As of now, it’s not blocked in most Canadian government departments and it’s free! As for communication policies, read over your employee contract, everything is there. The same rules apply as if you were having a dinner conversation or phone conversation with a concerned citizen.
That’s my two cents on Twitter for the day.Â You can follow me at twitter.com/mikekujawski