Note: This post is of my own personal opinion and is not endorsed or supported by any local, state, or federal government agency.
Better yet, do you even have one?
Twitter is all you hear nowadays. Tweet me this, retweet me that! Government is getting more involved with Twitter and see what a powerful communications tools it is. The CDC and State Department are both excellent examples of how Twitter can be used in Government. There’s, of course, many others as well. But does agency have a policy in place so that employees know whether or not they CAN get on Twitter when related to official business? What about your agency’s policy on how they’re official accounts handle things like replies, retweets, and who they follow?
Recently, I posted a few of these questions to Twitter myself. This morning I asked a question that has gotten a lot of great feedback so far (and retweets):
If you’re a gov’t agency on Twitter, what is your “follow” rule? Do you follow anyone? Only your Twitter accounts? Any gov’t account?
I then followed up later with:
Why follow only gov’t accts and not people? If gov’t follows people is it similar to endorsement of their tweets?
Which then led to questions about a retweet policy. So far I’ve been getting some great responses. Currently, my organization, U.S. Geological Survey, has a few official accounts (@USGS, @USGSNews, @USGSPodcasts). We’re also actively working on a policy and standard operating procedures for using Twitter within the organization as an official communications tool. It will address all of these issues as well as many other questions agencies have raised. Once we have a final policy, we will make that available on our public site and share it through GovLoop, Web Content Mangers Forum, and of course Twitter. It just wouldn’t be right without a tweet, right?
I’ve included the relevant tweets below regarding this topic. If you have any Twitter policies you’d like to share, please do so. The most recent is at the top.
staceywalkerRT @cbdawson @ScottHorvath I’d also add that gov accts need a RT policy to address appearance of endorsement w/RT.
cdorobekRT @ScottHorvath: RT (via @cbdawson) I’d also add that gov accts need a RT policy to address appearance of endorsement w/RTabout
[email protected] I’d also add that gov accts need a RT policy to address appearance of endorsement w/RT.about
[email protected] Gov acct should state/link follow/reply/RT policy. Understand not following, but not replying to ? is bad.about
ScottHorvath Thanks everyone for the RT on the twitter follow question. Would love to see more answers. Should’ve done a twitpoll.
ddkurcfeldRT @ScottHorvath: If ur a gov’t agency on Twitter, what’s ur “follow” rule? Do u follow anyone? Only ur Twitter accounts? Any gov’t account?
[email protected] RT @ScottHorvath: If you’re a gov’t agency, what is your “follow” rule? Mike, can you ask at the conference today?
[email protected] @ScottHorvath The state has other twitter accounts that DO follow and interact. Just the statewide “website” acct is a botabout
dsluncefordRT @dbevarly: @ScottHorvath @sarahebourne No citz follow resembles early gov Web sites: push content transactional, no interaction. Web 1.0?
[email protected] @sarahebourne No citz follow resembles early govt Web sites: push content. It’s transactional, no interaction. Web 1.0?
toddy6RT @ScottHorvath: If you’re a gov’t agency on Twitter, what “follow” rule? Follow anyone? Any gov’t account? #gov20 (via @cdorobek)
goofygeorgeRT @ScottHorvath If you’re a gov’t agency on Twitter, what is your “follow” rule?
govwikiRT @ScottHorvath: If you’re a gov’t agency on Twitter, what “follow” rule? Follow anyone? Any gov’t ac.. http://tinyurl.com/mvt2kq
[email protected] @sarahebourne – Just be sure your gov twitter account push every tweet via twitterfeed and hootsuite
ScottHorvath @sarahebourne Agreed. If you’re going to put agency out there, you better be expected to listen, reply, and learn.
[email protected] Nothing says I’m a bot! like not following. But considering adding more manpower to be more than a bot
ScottHorvath @sarahebourne Why @massgov follow only gov’t accts and not people? If gov’t follows people is it similar to endorsement of their tweets?
[email protected] @massgov follows any/only gov accts, but contemplating switch Other MA accts follow back
cdorobekRT @ScottHorvath: If you’re a gov’t agency on Twitter, what “follow” rule? Follow anyone? Any gov’t account? #gov20
Interesting article and take on Twitter. While I think it would be good to have some standard procedures, I think trusting the government professionals running the account would be the way to go. I think the best response to the question of “how gov’t agencies are deciding which websites to be active on (FB, Twitter) and isn’t that unfair to start-ups?” is that agencies have always been choosing. They grant interviews to NY Times but not the Scranton Times or the high school paper. Gov’t agencies have experience interacting with citizens in customer service, townhalls, etc – they should use a lot of them safe tactics and decision-making when moving online.
I agree that we just trust our government professionals to say things that related to the organization or being helpful to others with questions regarding the organization. Trust is not the issue. The point of a policy is to layout the things that should be done with regards to establishing an account. Twitter is a communications tool. Before any good communications or outreach effort you need to have a plans and strategy for what you’re doing, who you want to reach, why, etc. It goes back to what Jeffrey Levy is also saying “Mission. Tools. Metrics. Teach.”
The point of a policy, for Twitter, is to make employees aware of what Twitter is, why it’s such a powerful communications tool, provide guidelines for encouraging consistent branding of the agency, and why there needs to be a well thought out strategy and plan instead of just starting an account simply “just because it’s cool.” If there’s no thought put into “why” you want start an account then you can end up doing yourself, your organization, and more importantly the public a disservice. A policy and SOP help lay the foundational material that employees and teams should know before venturing out into Twitter. It’s not a policy to restrict employees from using Twitter…it’s meant to encourage planning and forethought.
Have you seen these pages? (good stuff)
Social Media Policy Examples (includes twitter examples)
Government Style Guide for Tweets!