Twitter Cliff Notes

As easy as Twitter is to use when it comes to tweeting for the Government there are a lot of things you need to know.  One of the big obstacles we run into is our senior management doesn’t always understand how Twitter works or what real engagement is.  They, like I assume many commerical managers, are looking for fast results.  I think there is a perception that if it is so easy to tweet then you should be able to build a community quickly and have big numbers.  Of course we know communities don’t happen over night.  We also know that if you are doing real engagement, the size of your community is less important.  In fact, having too big of a community can be detrimental to your end goals.

To help our managers and other people get started with Twitter, I developed what I call Twitter Cliff Notes.  This is meant to give someone who may or may not be using Twitter a better understanding of what the tool is and how it works.  And perhaps most importantly it talks about how we expect employees to act on Twitter.

1.       Introduction

  •      Twitter is at tool meant to be used for real time engagement with the public.  Twitter is an ongoing live conversation.
  •      Twitter is considered to be an advanced social media tool because there is no room for error.  Once you tweet it there is no going back. 
  •      Public engagement should only be conducted by trained professionals.  You should not tweet about something you are not an expert in.  An example would be if you are not a consular officer do not talk about the visa or passport process.  Direct those people to the appropriate subject matter expert.
  •     Twitter is a live community of humans and reacts the same way as people do when engaging with them in real life.  You should focus on developing a “human voice” or persona for your community.  This means no generic tweets or “ever green” tweets!  Mass messages across all Department accounts are also considered to be an inappropriate use of Twitter.
  •      All social media communities should be governed by the ideals laid out in the Open Government Directive for providing a community that is transparent, provides opportunities for people to collaborate with us and participate in the development of foreign policy.
  •       Before using any new social media tools for official State Department purposes, it is important that you are familiar with State Department Policy on Social Media: 5 FAM 790. You should also review the Managing Your Social Media field guide.  This guide is very important to helping you plan, create, and execute a successful social media campaign.

2.       Personal vs. Professional Self:

  •        You must have permission to tweet in your professional capacity.  Permission is granted by the head American officer in the section or the Office Director for domestic offices.
  •        If you are tweeting in your professional capacity, you must disclose the account as being an official Department of State account. 
  •        If you are tweeting on someone’s behalf, you must state who is on duty.  Transparency is critical to building trust with your community.
  •       When tweeting in your personal capacity you should not talk specifically about your job.  See 3 FAM 4170 for additional information.

3.       Getting Started:

  •        Conduct Community Analysis to determine who you are engaging with, why and on what technology platform they use.  Validate Twitter is the appropriate tool to use.
    •      Experiment with the tools
    •      Develop a Business Case
    •      Map to Strategic & Policy Goals
    •      Understand the Policies and Legal ramifications of engaging online.
    •       Develop metrics.
    •       Develop an Engagement Strategy i.e. how you are going to manage your community.
  •        Content should be timely and relevant to your intended community.  90% of the time you should be providing information and value to your community.  The remaining 10% can be devoted to promoting your organization, products, services and events.

4.       Managing Expectations:

  •       Communities do not grow overnight.  With care and feeding you should have a successful community within a year.
  •       People have the expectation you are there to engage with them; lack of engagement = no community.
  •      Prepare to commit the resources required to maintain your presence.  It will take up to 1 full time person to manage your Twitter account.
  •       It is not appropriate to have an intern tweet on behalf of the Department of State or the USG.
  •         There are no accurate metric and reporting tools available.  All are flawed.
  •       The number of followers you have does not determine the success of a community.  Success is based on level and quality of engagement. 

5.       Twitter Resources:

The resources below are provided to give you additional information on how to use Twitter and set up your accounts.  All resources listed can be found on the Social Media Hub.

  •         Twitter Field Guide
  •         Hootsuite Field Guide
  •         Managing Social Media Field Guide
  •          Community Manager Program
  •        Ask the Experts Webinar Program
  •         Email us at for additional questions
  •        Formal training on social media is provided by FSI in the PY 360 and PY 363 classes.

I removed the hyperlinks to some internal resources we have to support the use of Twitter and social media at the Department of State.  I know you would all think I provided broken links other wise!  One of my current projects is working with GSA and the Sub Council for Social Media on how to better share these internal resources with the rest of the U.S. Government.  Yes, that would include all levels of government – state, local and Federal.  More information should be forthcoming on this project over the next couple of months.

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1 Response to Twitter Cliff Notes

  1. Pingback: Twitter – It’s Not Too Late for You. | The Social Guy

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