DorobekInsider: The UK government encourages tweeting — and issues Twitter guidance

Thursday - 7/30/2009, 9:37am EDT

I mentioned that I was over the Britain for the past few days celebrating my sister’s birthday. (My mother was able to rent this remarkable place designed by famous British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, who designed the British Embassy’s Ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC, which is part of the Massachusetts Avenue historic district and is a marvelous building that unfortunately gets overlooked because of the modern new part of the embassy.)

While I was “across the pond,” there was an item stuffed inside the London papers — the British government was encouraging its career workers to use Twitter. Here is the story from the BBC:

New government guidance has been published urging civil servants to use the micro-blogging site Twitter.

twitterLaunched on the Cabinet Office website, the 20-page document is calling on departments to “tweet” on “issues of relevance or upcoming events”…

Neil Williams, of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), published the “template” strategy.

Writing on the Cabinet Office’s digital engagement blog, Mr Williams – who is BIS’s head of corporate digital channels – conceded that 20 pages was a “a bit over the top for a tool like Twitter” but added: “I was surprised by just how much there is to say – and quite how worth saying it is.”

You the full BBC story here.

Read Williams’ full post about the Twitter strategy here.

He has some good recommendations in his post:

For the next version of this document I’d like to set down how and when civil servants should support, encourage and manage Ministers’ use of Twitter for Departmental business (and navigate the minefield of propriety this might imply), and add a light touch policy for officials who tweet about their work in a personal capacity.

Finally, some of the benefits I’ve found of having this document in my armoury are:

  • To get buy-in, explain Twitter’s importance to non-believers and the uninitiated, and face down accusations of bandwagon-jumping
  • To set clear objectives and metrics to make sure there’s a return on the investment of staff time (and if there isn’t, we’ll stop doing it)
  • To make sure the channel is used consistently and carefully, to protect corporate reputation from silly mistakes or inappropriate use
  • To plan varied and interesting content, and enthuse those who will provide it into actively wanting to do so.
  • As a briefing tool for new starters in the team who will be involved in the management of the channel

I hope you’ll find it useful too.

And, in fact, you can read the UK guidance below… or download the PDF here:

I should note here in the US, there is a somewhat grass roots group called the Social Media Subcouncil, which hosts a wiki and collects information about items just like this. EPA’s Jeffrey Levy was on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris earlier this year talking about the group and what they hope to accomplish. Hear that conversation here… and see the subcouncil’s collection of best practices and policies here.

One other note (and a slight poke): Why isn’t this kind of policy being done by GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy — to help put something like this together… to pull people together to talk about the challenges and issues. I know there are many good people in OGP, but they just don’t appear to be players in an area where they should be the leaders. Instead, the phrase people say to me: GSA OGP is MIA. (I should note: I have been told by OGP folks that my impression of the role of the Office of Governmentwise Policy is incorrect. I thought it was to help guide policy. I would welcome that conversation.)