New IBM Report: A Manager’s Guide for Using Twitter in Government

This week IBM released a new report on Twitter use for government. The report, Working the Network: A Manager’s Guide for Using Twitter in Government, was written by Professor Ines Mergel, Professor at Syracuse University. Professor Mergel is currently an Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. The Executive Summary provides some interesting insights that show the meteoric rise in Twitter use across all sectors:

Twitter—a microblogging service that allows for short updates of 140 characters—has grown to over 540 million registered accounts as of early 2012 . News organizations, corporations, and the U .S . government have adopted this new practice as an innovative form of interaction with their stakeholders. Many government agencies maintain at least one Twitter account, and even multiple accounts, based on their operational needs and their diverse audiences. It can be unclear to government Twitter users what the best strategies are for interacting with the public on Twitter, and how an agency can use Twitter in a meaningful way to support its organizational mission.

Later in the report, there are some interesting statistics related to Twitter adoption specifically for government agencies, “About 700 different departments, agencies, initiatives, and teams within the U.S. federal government have set up a total of 1,015 Twitter accounts. Over 60 percent of these Twitter accounts are used by the Department of Defense.”

The report provides insights from social media directors for federal agencies. In particular, the report focused on four main strategies, push, pull, networking and customer service. The Executive Summary also highlights some of the findings and content of the research report:

In addition, hands-on best practices are presented for both public managers and social media administrators Twitter is still a relatively new tool. The platform frequently changes and features are added or moved, so government organizations need to be flexible and react to the changes. Suggestions on how to overcome both the technological and behavioral challenges are provided, and examples of best practices show how agencies have overcome these hurdles.

Professor Mergel also identifies that measurement will be critical for the future of Twitter within government agencies. The report states, “It will be important for the future use of social media in the public sector to show how investments in content curating and online interactions affect a government organization. Current measurement techniques are provided to help social media managers create a business case for the effective use of social media.” The report interestingly lists agency Twitter Klout scores, as a measure of influence and a way to compare how each agency is doing across government.

The second half of the report identifies some of the functions and features of Twitter, such @ replies, retweets, direct messaging, Twitter falls, lists and other advanced search functions. The final section of the report identifies other resources to help government agencies understand how to leverage Twitter within their agency. There is also an appendix which a timeline of regulations, acts and policies for the use of social media in the public sector.

I’d encourage you to be sure to check out the report, as there are many clear, tactical best practices for Twitter administrators within the report. It was a great read, and a lot of really interesting information within the report.

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Chris Cairns

That’s the trick – how to measure what impact your content is having. Look forward to reading this report.

Pat Fiorenza

It was a great report, measuring impact of content is quite the challenge for agencies. Lots of elements to think through, challenges..but certainly critical for management support.