UK Government Gets A Guide To Twitter

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And it’s worth worth a look for anyone with a corporate urge to get on Twitter, not just UK government departments

A British civil servant has written a 20-page guide on how organisations should use Twitter – and the online consensus is that it is very good.

Government departments should spend less than one hour a day managing their Twitter streams, and should respond to direct messages, according to the guide, which is online for any other organisation to use, and was written by Neil Williams, head of corporate digital channels at Lord Mandelson’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The document, which includes a clear explanation of Twitter and related social media, is primarily “defensive”, commented digitally-engaged MP Tom Watson, who explained on the BBC’s Today programme that it is designed to reassure the kind of ageing ministers who have secretaries to print their emails: “I feel sorry for the poor young civil servants who have had to draft this.”

Twitter use by Government departments should speak with an authentic voice on their day-to-day activities, and provide useful links, perhaps gathering smaller communities that are interested in a par particular part of a department’s work, said Watson, the former Minister for Digital Engagement, who stood down in a reshuffle in June.

“I was surprised by just how much there is to say – and quite how worth saying it is,” said Williams, and the document does indeed include useful and clear explanations of how it all works, as well as a good checklist of things to consider in setting up a Twitter feed, including etiquette and security.

Predictably, the Daily Mail titters “You Twitters!” in its headline, but could find little to object to in what it describes as a “dummies guide”.

In fact, the template should help those involved in setting up a Twitter feed to “face down accusations of bandwagon jumping,” avoid “silly mistakes” and make sure there is a benefit worth the investment of staff time. “If there isn’t we’ll stop doing it,” said Williams.

The UK government has already hired a so-called Tsar of Twitter, or digital engagement director, Andrew Stott.

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