Two Ways To Make Twitter Useful For Government

eWeek Europe has an article up listing 10 ways to make Twitter useful for governments.

The time is ripe for such thinking – more and more governments are using Twitter to interact with citizens, and its fitting that governments spend some time thinking about how this tool can be used most effectively. Still, the eWeek Europe article (and some other recent musing on this subject) have left me feeling that a lot of people (both inside and outside of government) are missing the point.

In response, I offer my own list – 2 important steps to make Twitter more useful for governments:

  1. Clearly articulate the goal(s) your agency or government is trying to achieve by using Twitter. Link these goals directly back to the stated mission or objectives of your government agency. If your agency’s mission is to fight crime, or protect the environment, or collect taxes clearly state how using Twitter will help you do this. Say these things out loud. Write them down. Distribute them to employees and policy makers.
  2. Develop clear and quantifiable metrics that will be used to evaluate your progress toward the goals listed in step 1. At least one metric should be developed for each goal. The same metric should not be used for more than one goal. The metrics used should measure outcomes (enhanced customer satisfaction), not inputs (number of DM’s responded to). Say these things out loud. Write them down. Distribute them to employees and policy makers.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of governments using Twitter – but use it for the right reasons. Governments using Twitter (or any other technology for that matter) because it is currently in high fashion is just silly.

If a government or agency can not follow the steps listed above then using Twitter should rank fairly low on the scale of importance.

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John Sporing

Your first point came out at the OGI Conference. One of the speakers stressed that you must use social networking tools to solve real problems in order to get support for the tool.

I think too many projects fail because we cannot connect them back to our mission. If everyone in government (and private inds) would remember the mission, we would have a lot more successful and meaningful projects.

Mark Headd

I agree John.

There is a lot of enthusiasm around Twitter, Facebook and other social networking tools in government – much of it warranted.

I do think, though, that there is the potential for agencies to feel compelled to use these tools because they are currently in vogue and everyone is using them. (Certainly there are lots of consultants out there telling governments this, and the Gov 2.0 label has a lot of resonance right now.)

Social networking tools (like technology of every other kind) should be used to help governments do their jobs more efficiently. Governments must understand HOW these tools help them before jumping on the bandwagon.