How feds can make the most of Twitter

Twitter's Adam Sharp advises feds on using the microblogging service

Twitter’s new liaison to federal agencies and Congress had some advice for federal media and communications managers who wish to be effective on the popular microblogging service: “Find your voice and make it real.”

Twitter communications should be less formal than other agency messages, said Adam Sharp, who was hired in November as Twitter's first manager of government and political partnerships and its first D.C.-based employee.

“No one likes to see the same thing on Twitter as on your press release page,” he said March 17, speaking to several hundred federal employees at the General Services Administration’s Government Web and New Media Conference.


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Sharp also urged the managers to be discriminating in their tweets to ensure accurate and timely information. Having worked at Ground Zero after the 2001 terrorist attacks and assisted in the Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, Sharp said he was inspired by the critical nature of information at those times. "Information is as important as food or water or every other necessity,” he said.

Accordingly, federal managers on Twitter should be selective in what they tweet in order to present facts and well-sourced information, Sharp said.

Engaging with the public effectively means becoming a “champion of knowledge” and a “curator of what is good, credible information,” Sharp said.

Twitter, which started as a texting company, allows registered users to broadcast 140 characters in real-time news feeds on the Web-based site or by mobile text. More than 200 million people are currently registered users, including many federal agencies and managers as well as elected officials. The service generates an average of 140 million tweets per day.

Sharp, who has more than 3,000 Twitter followers, said he was hired to assist federal government and political users in familiarizing themselves with the service and maximizing their benefits in using it.

He encouraged the federal workers to become Twitter users and to initially “listen” — rather than immediately publish — and to read a variety of tweets to get a sense of what constituents are interested in.

The next step is sharing information, which Sharp advised the managers to tweet often and update information throughout the day to maintain a viable presence.

Through experience, a federal manager on Twitter can find a "voice,” or a personal style, and develop a group of followers. It  helps to add a personal touch and avoid jargon, repetition and duplication, he added.

 





About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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