Does half a Twitter presence make you a twit or is half better than none?

I have a question rattling around in my head: is it ok for EPA’s main presence on Twitter, @usepagov, to primarily be fed by RSS, with only a smattering of handpicked content and actual human engagement? Or is that worse than not being on Twitter? We don’t have staff or governance to fully “personify” EPA’s main account at the moment.

My usual rubric says to go for it: define mission, match tool to it. Our mission is to protect human health and the environment, and putting info on Twitter where people can find it, without making them come to our main web site, helps fulfill that mission.

And I’ve seen many posts from people happy to have found EPA on Twitter. But the key question is what they expect, and whether doing it “wrong” will hurt our ability to communicate.

As I’ve said myself (as recently as yesterday), organizations who simply use social media as an outlet are missing the main point: being social. And by being halfway present, we risk making ourselves look clueless.

On the other hand, our blog Greenversations has more than 1300 followers. So at least those folks think it’s okay to use Twitter as a distribution mechanism (another example: the LA Fire Department).

Here’s the current state of things, which grew up because of my reluctance to “tarnish” our main account by not being fully engaged. But now I’m wondering whether we should feed everything EPA has to offer through that account and see what happens.

My team, the Office of Web Communications, runs 4 accounts. Other than Greenversations, we’ve never advertised any of them other than my rarely tweeting them from my own account:
Main account: only occasional posts, but they’re always handpicked.
Greenversations: our blog, fed by RSS
News releases: fed by RSS
Web updates: an experiment to see whether our team can keep it going with live tweets. So far, I’m not convinced it’s worth the effort. But this might be a good model of a cyborg: a combination of an RSS feed from our “recent additions to our site” feed and handpicked stuff.

Other parts of EPA also run their own feeds:
Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds: another mix of RSS and handpicked
Nat’l Center for Environmental Research: handpicked items


What if I shut down @usepaweb and @usepanews and plowed that stuff into @usepagov? I could also pick up what goes out via the other offices’ feeds. And I’d occasionally still add manual tweets. I’m not shutting down @greenversations because I think the followership shows it to be a success.

I still don’t have time or staff to apply to fully engaging on behalf of EPA, but at least it’d be another experiment to see what happened.

Good? Bad? A good experiment but you have doubts? Whatcha think?

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Adriel Hampton

I advise doing what you do, well. If you want to be where people are, but aren’t intereacting, keep it closed and direct them to where you ARE interacting. Dead space is bad on Facebook (I’ve blogged on how pages can simply become outlets for critics), and bad on Twitter. Probably bad everywhere else as well.
I would suggest closing the extra accounts or pointing them to your main account. In the profile, say it if it is just a feed.
In my case, I’ve grabbed unused variations on my name, and simply pointed them to the active account.


I can’t decide what’s best yet but it’s probably best to let the ‘market’ decide.

With over 200 followers in all the Twitter accounts, I’d say they’re all doing well. Why drop any of them?

Otherwise, as long as it doesn’t take more staff resources, I think plowing all three together would be an interesting idea for an additional Twitter account experiment. If they are draining staff resources, then that’s a real consideration.

Digg has 15 Twitter feeds. As long as we clearly indicate the distinctions between the feeds and they aren’t drawing on our resources or causing a problem, we should let a thousand flowers bloom.

Sandy Ressler

No clue what to drop or not…but you might check out using a tool called HootSuite which let’s you manage multiple accounts and schedule when you want tweets to send. Might be useful for ya…Sandy

Andrew Wilson

I think its appropriate to have “official” feeds that are primarily a channel for pushing information. The caveats being that 1) there is one or more alternate accounts where interaction is available and 2) the alternate channel where this interaction is offered is clearly indicated on the “non-interactive” accounts. I actually like the implementation you use on EPA.

Another tactic is to create a page where you clearly indicate how you intend to use twitter. We use this approach with our @BirdFluGov account for PandemicFlu.gov: More Information about Twitter and How We Plan to Use It. We point back to this page fairly regularly to make it clear to new followers the approach with which we are “experimenting”.

Pam Broviak

I receive press releases in my email from the EPA and will tweet the title and link when I see one I think might be particularly interesting to most. So I was wondering if this type of activity would be beneficial to encourage. You could engage an outside group of EPA “fans” who agree to receive releases or info and then push out the ones they think are particularly interesting to their groups. If you were concerned about partnering with individuals, could you restrict this to other govt bodies or to professional associations?

Just thought that not only does this take some of the work out of your hands, but in a way it is more genuine because it has gone through a type of interest filter.

Jeffrey Levy

Pam, you’ve just described my concept of a blogger corps, which is based on the existing blogger corps for the Dept. of Defense. Great minds think alike. 🙂

Barry Everett

Maybe ‘Writing for Twitter’ or “Micro-Blogging the EPA Mission: A Brief Discussion of Best Practices for Translating the Concepts of the Task of Protecting the Environment into Concise Knowledge Snippets” would be a new training course at Web University. Oops, the title alone won’t fit into a single Tweet! We have got to teach our writers to shorten titles… LOL

Sarah Bourne

Jeff, you might be interested in the page our Governor’s Office put together to explain their use of social media, including Twitter: Staying Informed and Involved Online. Our Atorney General’s Office has a similar page: Web Communications Policies. Both use Twitter’s “web” field to point to these.

We also have an RSS feed Twitter for Mass.Gov itself, which we use for correspondence once in a while to respond to tweets found via RSS feeds of Twitter searches. Scanning the search results takes an awful lot of time and we’re not sure it’s worth it.