Ten Ways To Make Twitter Useful For Government

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Governments can’t ignore Twitter, because it’s a channel on which people might just listen. But, says Don Reisinger, they have to do it right

Twitter is quickly becoming the most important social communication platform on the Web.

Although Facebook still dominates the social networking arena, Twitter is leading the way in communications. It’s a social phenomenon.

And although some organisations are still trying to decide if they should allow employees to engage in tweeting, its use in Government has increased – growing roughly thirteen times over the past eight months according to the government Twitter Directory GovTwit.com.

This week saw the publication of a 20-page Twitter strategy document written by a UK civil servant, advising that allowing workers to tweet is in the UK government’s best interest. It claims that Twitter has significant advantages for those hoping to communicate with the public. And although it’s considered a platform that is rife with discussions of what users had for dinner last night, that stereotype is not necessarily true. Twitter can actually be used for some good.

But before that’s illustrated, it’s important to remember that Facebook and Twitter have experienced some serious security problems. Both social networks have faced malware breakouts that hijacked profiles, installed malicious code on unsuspecting users’ computers, and more. Although both companies have tried to increase the security of their platforms, they haven’t been entirely successful. Furthermore, it’s important to realise that users are slack on security, and some users are not who they claim to be. There are dozens of Sarah Palin Twitter accounts, for example.


Tony La Russa, manager of Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals, filed suit against Twitter in June claiming that a Twitter user created an account under La Russa’s name and posted Tweets that defamed him and damaged his reputation. La Russa quietly dropped the suit a month later after Twitter shut down the offending account.

These cases demonstrate that you can’t entirely rely on the identities and motives of anyone you may communicate with on Twitter. That said, Twitter is still a compelling platform. As long as those caveats are considered, it could make for a far better social experience in the government sector.
Here’s how to make it work:

1. Social matters
Being social counts for something today. The public expects it. More importantly, they expect it from the government that’s working for them. The public expects those employees to be forthright about what’s going on behind the scenes. Twitter can play a major role in meeting that demand.

2. It’s the new press release
Although press releases are still used by governments to disseminate important information, few people in the public read them. For the most part, they’re ignored. But if that same information is syndicated to a Twitter page, all that would change. It would create a spirit of openness. And it might help the public trust the government just a little more.