Twitter for Government 101Definitions • Twitter: social network that allows users to post 140-character messages. Users can follow (or subscribe to) other accounts and will see those users’ messages. • Tweet: the more common name for a message posted to the Twitter social network. • Twitterfeed: akin to the Facebook Wall, this is where all of the tweets from all of the accounts you follow will appear (in reverse chronological order). • @: the @ (at) symbol in tweets is used to denote a user’s account. Including a username in a tweet will notify that user that you “mentioned” them. Tweets that start with a username will only be seen by that particular user and any others that follow both you and the “mentioned” user. o @cdcgov <- Twitter account for the CDC o @cdcgov How are things? <- this tweet will only be seen by @cdcgov and other users who follow both your account and @cdcgov • Retweet: a tweet that has been forwarded. It is possible to take a tweet posted by another user and forward it to your followers. This can happen in two different ways. First, using the Twitter website, it is only possible to forward the message as you’ve seen it. For example, it will look to your followers that the original account has posted something in their timeline, and you will be unable to make changes or comments on it. The second way is usually done using another Twitter program. This allows you to essentially copy a tweet and send it from your account. It is considered good form to precede the forwarded content with the following: RT @username: CONTENT, to ensure that the original account gets credit. The RT stands for ReTweet. Retweeting this second way allows you to comment on the original tweet. • Direct Message: the ability to send completely private messages to another Twitter user. Only that user will see the message. Messages are crafted as such: d cdcgov CONTENT. The “d” denotes the message as a Direct Message, and the “cdcgov” denotes the account the message will be sent to. For non-verified accounts, both your account and the user you are messaging have to be following each other. Verified accounts can receive Direct Messages from anyone.Account Setup • Name o Should be short, but descriptive of your agency/position. • Bio o If official, say so. If not official say, “Content does not represent my employer.” Some like to put, “RTs are not an endorsement,” which allows you retweet without expressly condoning all aspects of the original tweet; great for pointing out a fallacy in an existing tweet. • Link o Be sure to put your agency’s homepage as the link. • Avatar (picture) o If your agency has a logo, use that.Account Management, Best Practices and Things to Think About • What is the purpose of your account? o Consider if it will act as another information dissemination point (like your website), or as a place to talk with your audience. The second requires much more work and
personnel, but the first has been shown to not be how the public views social media use by agencies (http://www.redcross.org/portal/site/en/menuitem.94aae335470e233f6cf911df43181a a0/?vgnextoid=7a82d1efe68f1310VgnVCM10000089f0870aRCRD).• Who is authorized to post to the account? o Consider if it should be your PIO/Communications Director or others in your organization. The PIO will usually be best placed to post the latest information, but they can quickly become overwhelmed in an emergency, leaving the Twitter account un- or under-used. If others can post, consider using a third-party software that allows more than one person to be logged in at one time, like Hootsuite (http://www.hootsuite.com).• How will you interact with your followers? o Consider if you will follow other accounts. This may become cumbersome if your account gets a lot of traction, and doesn’t offer a lot of benefit besides allowing you to be able to Direct Message those accounts. o Consider if you will reply to requests or questions. Many in the public view social media accounts as a sort of 911 system. If someone posts something and you’ve established that you are responding to @ mentions, can you be held liable for not seeing or responding properly to the request? If you decide against monitoring and replying, be sure to post every once in a while that you are not monitoring this post, and if you have questions, call a hotline or 911 for emergencies. o Consider how you will handle retweeting. Some government accounts will not retweet any other account, feeling that they were not the crafter of the information so they do not have the right to forward it. Others feel that all tweets are public, and as long as the original account is acknowledged (using either retweet method), it is understood that the original message came from somewhere else. Retweeting allows your PIO to spend less time crafting tweets, especially if the retweeted source is a trusted agency, like CDC.• When, and how often, should you post? o It depends on the situation. In emergency situations, it is generally acceptable to post more often. Your account will generate more interest, followers and traction the more up-to-date it is. This is important if Twitter will be one of your primary forms of information dissemination. Because almost no accounts follow only one account, it is understood that people will miss tweets as their Twitterfeed is filled with tweets from all of the accounts they follow. As such, it is appropriate to repeat messages from time to time to ensure that all of your followers see them. o There are tools available that will tell you when the best time to post for your followers is. Investigate Socialbro (http://www.socialbro.com) and Crowdbooster (http://www.crowdbooster.com) to find out when your followers are most active and most likely to see your posts. Using a tool like Buffer (http://www.bufferapp.com) or Hootsuite’s scheduling tool will allow you to “set it and forget it” based upon your followers. Recent research has also shown that many followers are more active on the weekend that was previously acknowledged. (http://mashable.com/2012/06/26/marketers-failing-twitter-study/) Be sure to schedule posts or actively post then, too!