UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

The Dos and Don’t of Corporate Use of Twitter

Posted by Brian Kelly on 8 Dec 2009


Google To Provide Realtime Search

Stating obvious. google+real time search = critical for organizations to be on twitter/facebook” summed it up nicely. This tweet from @Aarontay referred to the recent news story that “Google Launches Real-Time Search” – a story which has also been picked up by the BBC.

Institutional Need To Provide Realtime Content

So, if you agree with the premise that a failure to have a presence on Twitter you are likely to miss out on marketing and outreach opportunities as Google brings Twitter to the masses, how should organisations go about making effective use of Twitter?

Policies On Corporate Use of Twitter

A recent thread on the MCG (Museums Computer Group) JISCMail list has been addressing this question, with a lively discussion responding to the query.

How do you enable a number of staff to collectively twitter for your organisation? Do you allow them all to twitter from the main account (a bit impersonal for me)? Or do they have individual accounts and you use the Twitter groups aggregate them? The latter would mean you emphasise Twitter group address in comms.

Now although I would agree with the comments made on this list that the most effective use of Twitter results from an authentic and individual voice, I appreciate that this is not always possible. I suspect, for example that we won’t see on the DowningStreet Twitter account (“The official twitter channel for the Prime Minister’s Office based at 10 Downing Street“) an authentic and heartfelt admission from Gordon Brown”Grilled by @davidcameron at question time. I hate that Eton toff” .

So let’s be honest, we do need policies and guidelines covering corporate use of Twitter. And although criticised for being too long when it was released I feel that the “Template Twitter strategy for Government Departments” provides a useful starting point for those tasked with developing institutional guidelines.

A Case Study of When Twitter Goes Wrong

But rather than discuss the best practices of corporate Twittering in this post I’d like to highlight an example of how things could go wrong.

My colleague Paul Walk alerted me to a problem on the uk_ngs Twitter account this morning: dozens, if not hundreds of Twitter posts had been published overnight, and these were repetitions of previously published tweets.

It would appear that a script designed to retweeet posts had gone wrong. And what we were seeing was the equivalent of the badly written email vacation script, causing a recursive loop to be generated :-(

Now I can only speculate on the reasons for the scripted approach to use of Twitter (which, as can be seen from the accompanying screen image, appears to have been produced by thePerl Net::Twitter library). But it does strike me that it appears to be an example of over-complexity, with a scripting approach taken to a service which has been successful due to the simplicity of the end user content creation tools.

Now I’m not arguing that scripted use of Twitter is necessarily a bad thing – but clearly a broken script is! But there are also dangers that innovative approaches to Twitter may result in the service actually deteriorating for its established community. And as a long standing Twitter users (a ‘Twitter resident’ rather than ‘visitor’) I do not want to see Twitter evolving into Usenet News.

Two Simple Dos and Don’t

In order to avoid accusations of making institutional use of Twitter appear to complex I’ll avoid repeating the advice given in the 20-page “Template Twitter strategy for Government Departments” document. Instead I’ll provide just two bullet points:

  • Do engage with the individuals who Twitter personally before developing an institutional strategy on corporate use of Twitter.
  • Don’t allow a corporate strategy to be developed by your comms or IT department unless experienced individual Twitterers have provided input into the policy to ensure that it doesn’t miss out on th factor which make Twitter successful.

Or to summarise in a more Twitter-friendly fashion “Let Twitter natives develop your Twitter policy, not Twitter visitors“.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

2 Responses to “The Dos and Don’t of Corporate Use of Twitter”

  1. Emma said

    Good points, though those last two probably apply to any SNS … Facebook, Delicious, Twitter etc.
    We’re currently discussing how Google Apps (supplied as part of Education Apps to students [not staff]) should be used in T & L alongside (but not replacing) the VLE. There are varying viewpoints!

  2. If it s not personal its not twitter therefore it looks like and feels like spam….. ie news services that dont follow up with dm I stop following them and let others know about my experience….

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