Twitter Strategies

I’m wrestling with an issue and I’m hoping I can get a lot of input from multiple sources regarding Twitter strategies for government.

Try to look at this with your “public affairs hat” on. Do you think Twitter accounts for an agency should be created and managed based upon a general topic, organizational structure, or a combination of both?

If done organizationally, there’s the potential for having hundreds of Twitter accounts all from your organization. Many would be very niche, but is there more of an advantage to approaching accounts in that way or more of a disadvantage to the agency?

If done topically…advantages? Disadvantages?

Many organizations have a decentralized web presence…meaning it’s not managed by any one group. Should your Twitter presence be the same way?

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Adriel Hampton

Need more inputs. What are the goals for these Twitter accounts? Public outreach, interactivity, breaking alerts, national or regional target audiences, etc.

Meagen Ryan

I think the answer is a combination of both. Ideally, the audience would be the first consideration. What do they want to know, and from whom? In some cases, organization will trump topic, others topic trumps organization.

For example:
-Organizational: I follow @TheJointStaff because I want to hear what Admiral Mullen (or his staff) have to say on just about any topic they care to tweet about.
– Topical: I follow @USDAFoodSafety because I want food safety tips. I don’t care which agency within USDA this comes from. Really, I don’t even care that it’s USDA, other than they probably know a lot about food.

That said, we live in the real world. Aligning your Twitter accounts with the way information flows through the agency may be the path of least resistance. That might not be the objective “best” way, but it might be the one most likely to succeed. For example, the Food Safety and Inspection Service already produces food safety tips and distributes them on its website. @USDAFoodSafety is another tool for distributing that existing content. Who knows if they’d have a successful Twitter account if they’d had to develop new workflows.

Scott Horvath

@adriel: They could be for a number of reasons. Some might be significant agency events…but most would probably be local information for a specific audience (like state-related information). There may be overlap as well in what a state account would post and what a “national” account might post. Who knows.

Kevin Lanahan

Adriel has the right idea here. What is the purpose of the Twitter account?

We currently have one account, which we mostly use to repackage news releases (with a more personal voice) and events going on in Missouri. It’s doing ok, considering we don’t promote it heavily at this time.

But I can see a time where we would want to have accounts for different parts of our state, or for different activities. If we see an audience for it, we can move in. And if there isn’t an audience, we can pull out.