Help Me Learn? Tweeting for an Organization

Here at EPA, we have many Twitter feeds. Most are run automagically via RSS feeds.

I’m trying to figure out whether our main feed, @usepagov, should have a live person behind it who responds to people. I’m very concerned about the potential time demands, because EPA is involved in an enormous number of issues that affect all Americans. I can easily imagine it ballooning out of control.

On the other hand, in every other social media experiment at EPA, if there’s been a problem with the level of citizen engagement, it’s been too little, not too much. So I’m tempted to try it, having one of my team members keep track and develop responses.

But first, I figured I’d ask my colleagues: here on GovLoop, in my normal blog, and on Twitter.

So: if you represent your organization (gov’t agency, private company, non-profit, whatever) on Twitter, how much time does it take? How many questions do you get? Do you find you’re able to answer them, or do you farm them out? Have you set up a specific set of people to expect to get your queries, or is it ad hoc?

Any tips or advice or info you could share would be terrific.


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Adriel Hampton

Jeff, I work on the official SFCityAttorney account. We get a lot more retweets than questions, I’ve found. Of course, the EPA is so much larger, I, too, would have the same fears as you. On our account, a questions goes to the press office if it is difficult or controversial, but, like I’ve said, we definitely have fewer questions than you might expect.
I also run the Govwiki account, which is a Gov 2.0 outreach feed, and it gets a few questions a week. Both these accounts have over 1,000 followers and keeping up with the following and replies takes only an hour or so per day.

Dan Luxenberg

I’m interested in the answers to those questions as well as we explore increasing the level of interactivity on our Twitter feeds. Jeff, if you would be so kind as to pass on anything that you discover, it would be much appreciated.

Scott Fraser

You probably already know this, but the EPA librarians help field questions that come into the Agency http://www.epa.gov/libraries/library_services.html Perhaps they can help field twitter questions in addition to your staff. Like Adriel noted, I’m sure most questions will be retweets and the FAQs are handy for those. Currently, there’s 216 answers to FAQs http://publicaccess.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/publicaccess.cfg/php/enduser/std_alp.php

So, if you have a process to manage the bulk of the repetitive questions (which again, is a good thing as it gets more info out there and more people to EPA’s web site) then you can really hone in on the good, thought provoking questions/comments. For instance, “What’s EPA’s stance on regulating greenhouse gas emissions from mobile sources?” or “What does EPA plan to do with their Recovery Act funds?” etc. Again, many of these can be pointed to a site that already has the answer, but if there’s that many people with the same questions and it’s already tweeted… you’re making a difference!

Darcella K. Craven

I usually tweet for my org (www.vetbiz.org) at night when I am at home while watching my TiVo. LOL that is only partly true. I do tweet for the org at home when I have more time to review each tweet, visit sites with links and be more conscientious about what I am tweeting. On occasion I tweet at work through TweetDeck but only for those things that are urgent for Veteran businesses to know.

As far as questions, I am usually passing through information for small businesses so not many questions. However, we have received clients that have come to us from twitter recommendations.