Ministers get 20-page guide to 140-character Twitter
Tuesday 28 July 2009
It took a fastidious government document spanning 20 pages to inform ministers how to use Twitter, the microblogging tool with a limit of 140 characters.
Whitehall's first ever Twitter strategy was created by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as a guide to government departments to tweet more consistently, despite the risk of "criticism of jumping on the bandwagon" and "pointless content".
Produced by Neil Williams, BIS's head of corporate digital channels, it presents a series of ideas how to communicate better with the public, recommending that tweets should be "human and credible".
Twitter has millions of users in Britain and has become an important communication and news medium.
But Westminster's efforts have been spurious. While some politicians have quickly embraced the new technology, others have quickly lost interest. Hazel Blears is still to update beyond her first post on 15 June, despite the promise to "tweet more soon".
The new guide proposes that digital media teams in Whitehall departments should consider releasing "exclusive content" – such as insights from ministers, answering questions from voters and tweeting on ministers' whereabouts, provided it does not infringe on security.
Mr Williams says one of the biggest problems will be to get the right tone – the informality of the service means that Twitter users might not like "dry" departmental tweets. He added that those running the Twitter feeds will have to put up varied links to other interesting information, rather than just web links to press releases.
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