Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Tweeting Civil Servant

A Whitehall chappy has produced a 20-page guide to Twitter for fellow mandarins. Some of it is quite sensible:

... once anyone does follow a Whitehall Twitter stream it recommends they should automatically be "followed back" on the grounds that it is not only good etiquette, but could result in a poor Twitter reputation if not done ‑ and in extreme cases could lead to the account being suspended.

In urging his fellow Whitehall civil servants to use Twitter, Williams sets out several grounds rules for the kind of content that needs to make it work:

• Human: He warns that Twitter users can be hostile to the "over-use of automation" - such as RSS feeds – and to the regurgitation of press release headlines: "While corporate in message, the tone of our Twitter channel must therefore be informal spoken English, human-edited and for the most part written/paraphrased for the channel."

• Frequent: a minimum of two and maximum of 10 tweets per working day, with a minimum gap of 30 minutes between tweets to avoid flooding followers' Twitter streams. (Not counting @replies or live coverage of a crisis/event.) Downing Street spends 20 minutes on its Twitter stream with two-three tweets a day plus a few replies, five-six tweets a day in total.

• Timely: in keeping with the "zeitgeist" feel of Twitter, official tweets should be about issues of relevance today or events coming soon.

• Credible: while tweets may occasionally be "fun", their relationship to departmental objectives must be defensible.

Alongside the promised tweetable content of minsters' thoughts and reflections following key meetings and events is something rather more sinister sounding called "thought leadership". Also known as "linked blogging", the idea is that by highlighting relevant research, events, awards and other action elsewhere on the web, the department's Twitter feed gets a reputation as a reliable filter of high quality content.

whole piece here at the Guardian. The full document is here, composed by Neil Williams, who works for Peter Mandelson covering 'digital engagement' (and I just thought that meant shaking hands).

Do we want our taxpayers money spent on this?

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