The really, really wrong way to tweet

Check out this article, courtesy of The Record in Canada.  It details the best example I have found so far of a government finding ways to bureaucratize…heck, to governmentaize, Twitter use.

Here’s the summary: Industry Canada does business development in Canada, and the organization has a Twitter account.  And, when they wanted to send out tweets, it takes moves at the speed of…well, government.

The article details the extremely choreographed nature of the Twitter account run by Industry Canada. Tweets would laundered through a 12-step review process.  Retweets were planned out days in advance.  Government employees would nitpick through every prospective single tweet, sanitizing them and removing every ounce of spontaneity and responsiveness.  Retweets from other government agencies, not genuine conversations or leads generated, were considered measures of success.

This article is fascinating because it allows for an under the hood look at how government agencies use, and misuse, Twitter.  Government agencies and employees are often risk adverse.  I’ve said this repeatedly: The best government employees I ever worked with (and there there is no shortage of them) will find the boxes that they are supposed to live in as bureaucrats, and then find ways to shatter those boxes for the good of the public.  That, in a sense, is what Twitter does.  But Industry Canada (and it is by no means alone) clearly decided to live comfortably in those walls and try to bend Twitter to fit it’s culture.  Doing so shows a total lack of understanding of Twitter, Social Media, and communication in general.

Twitter requires letting go.  It requires being spontaneous and empowering users to operate independently (within rational parameters, of course).  Really, at their best, governments and governmental agencies are supposed to be responsive and transparent.  For a government to truly get the most out of Twitter, they have to be able and willing to do a few things:

  • Publicly deal with criticism and respond to it.
  • Empower Social Media Managers to answer questions and make statements on policy and current events.
  • Retweet useful information that may fall outside of a rigid mission statement.
  • Be humorous, or at a bare minimum, personable.
  • Be responsive and able to tweet out new content in within a maximum of a few hours.

Twitter, and Social Media, present a challenge to the ruling bureaucratic culture that strangles many government and business agencies.  In that sense, if we are lucky, it will help to force an overall culture change at these places…for the better.

What do you think?  Let us know in the comments!

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