Wednesday 5 October 2011

Running a Council Twitter stream

It's terrifying. There. I said it.
Judge all you like, if you've ever run one yourself. Have you? Or have you just sat there in your comfortable ergonomic chair in your comfortable study in your comfortable house sniping at everyone else getting it wrong?

Because I hold my hand up freely - I was in that camp for the last 18 months. And then redundancies meant I inherited our Twitter stream and well, gosh, it's not as easy as it looks.

I've sort of found my groove a little bit - it's only been a few weeks. I've messed up already and I will no doubt mess up again. I don't mind admitting I was embarrassed about messing up all things considered, but I figured learning curves are called curves for a reason and I will learn.

So what's the issue?

  • Pick your voice. I didn't really think about this before, but the tone of voice I use on my own Twitter account is absolutely not appropriate on the Council's stream. No awesomes. No yays. No smileys.
  • I lied about the smileys. I personally think smileys are absolutely the only way to indicate in text that I'm joking, using irony, being sarcastic or any one of a hundred other things lost in text translation. If you think that's unprofessional, that's cool. I don't.
  • I'm a digital native. I breath this stuff. Apparently. Except I am used to speaking as me, not as an organisation. And as I have alluded to before, do the public want us to speak to them as human beings, or do they want us to retain the aura of authority and organisationalism (?) that you historically have associated with Councils. Are residents ready yet for chatty reps from the Council turning up on their Twitter feed? Well, I kind of think about it like this - the tone and demeanour of a social worker is entirely different to a Communications Officer is entirely different to a Teacher. My tone on the official stream is appropriate for the environment it finds itself in, which is Twitter. It is not appropriate for an official press release imparting information on a serious case review. For example. Right communication for the right audience for the right channel for the right words.
  • Spelling. Oh god I have agonised over whether it's okay to use pls or whether someone will come and hunt me down and lynch me for grammatical abuses. In the end I just figured, I couldn't fit the message into 1 tweet if I didn't use pls and so pls it was.
  • Not knowing the answer. What the hell am I going to do if I don't know the answer? Well, as  it turns out, I'll reply with the digital equivalent of a please hold message and then spend hours finding the answer and doing the best I can to assist the person requesting the help. I will obtain email addresses on DM, I will keep in touch and ask for updates on progress and in the process I will something about the organisation and the people in it that I did not previously know, improving my own networking ability in the process. Win:Win.
  • What if I have to delete a tweet cos it's wrong? Or I say the wrong thing? Well. I already did that. Lesson learnt. Move on, keep going, remember the lesson, don't screw up again.
  • Slowly but surely, I am becoming more comfortable about tweeting and less 'hung up'. It takes a bit to relax into it but once you do it's fine. As with everything on Twitter, it's better to retweet other peoples content to and be useful to people - like if most of your residents are suddenly experiencing a water outage - than chatter and other inanities. 
  • Some people are watching your stream very closely and that's likely to be the local media too. Don't be surprised if you tweet something and your team receive a phone call shortly afterwards asking for more details.
  • Be careful. People are watching your stream very closely and if you mistweet something it's going to be really really really difficult to pull it back.
No pressure then?

No pressure then.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this Louise. It's really helpful to hear about the very human difficulties that organisations like local councils face in order to get, and stay, connected through online networks. Usually what we hear about are technical, political, policy and structural barriers, I think your post is helpful in terms of identifying appropriate support and encouragement to create an empowering environment in which such communication can take place. And of course this applies in organisations other than local councils. I will share your post with colleagues at my CVS as we start to look at online networking.

    A question though - is it driving you crazy that it takes so long to find answers to some questions? And do you see that as your role?