How the government should tweet

In yesterday’s entry, I highlighted a Twitter train wreck by a government agency – specific tweets that were planned out weeks in advance, put through a twelve-step process to ensure conformity, etc., all in the name of bureaucratic protection. This was one of the worst Twitter uses of government I have ever seen, and perfectly demonstrated ways in which government should never use Twitter.  However, that’s only half the story.  Obviously, governments can, and should, use Social Media.  Here are a few principles to abide by that show the RIGHT way to use Social Media:

1.  Highlight your criticism…and respond:  Yes, that’s right, I said it:  government should use Social Media to show off everything that is wrong with it: paperwork errors, lack of responsiveness, poor service, etc.  Why on earth would you do this?  First, transparency.  It shows that you aren’t afraid of criticism and that you are prepared to learn from it.  Second, continual improvement.  There is something that can be improved within every government agency.  Show the people you serve that you are actively striving for improvement by responding positively to constructive criticism.  And third, it humanizes the government.  It’s hard to think poorly of a government that humbles itself so publicly, and humbling is something that quite a few government agencies should be working on.

2.  Instant information with a specific Call to Action:  One of the most common ways that governments use Social Media is to spread information, particularly when something is happening that is urgent and a potential threat to public safety.  This past week, Allentown has had two snow emergencies, requiring vehicles to move off of designated snow routes or get towed.  As a State Representatve, I shared the news from my official page, but I did more then that:

I added the words “Please share.”  This specific call to action got others to retweet my post – and, in turn, others did the same.  A specific request can evangelize others, and thus, you can create a Social Media army that spreads your own message.

3.  Guide and empower your Social Media managers: At their worst, middle managers in the private and public sector are scared of their own shadows.  They have a little bit of independence but not enough confidence or authority to fully use the power of their position for good, or to advance a cause they believe in.  If you have someone like this who operates a governmental Social Media account, you have a problem.  The person that manages Social Media must be able to, relatively quickly, use their judgement to create/repurpose content and answer questions, and they must be able to do so in a relatively quick period of time.  As such, craft a job description and protocols that allow your governmental Social Media manager to act accordingly.  Give them general guidelines to operate in (don’t curse, don’t insult, etc) and trust their judgement.

Any other thoughts? Let me know in the comments!


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