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UK Government Twitter ‘strategy’ – who is following suit?

Self-titled web geek for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ (BIS) Neil Williams has written a strategy on how UK Government should be using Twitter.

A twenty-pager on Twitter, a medium based on the creation of messages with a very tight word limit.

Neil (Twitter ID: @neillyneil, 1438 followers), sees the irony and justifies it on the Cabinet Office’s Digital Engagement blog with: “I was surprised by just how much there is to say – and quite how worth saying it is, especially now the platform is more mature and less forgiving of mistakes.”

He says the paper who says it could be reused to suit the needs of any organisation.

One of the aims of the paper is to help “explain Twitter’s importance to non-believers and the uninitiated” (non-believers! When did Twitter become a religion?). It also lays out things like ‘proper’ use by government organisations, “respect for the community,” efficient use of time and metrics for assessing the return on interaction.

The author’s post about the report here on the Cabinet Office’s Digital Engagement blog is interesting. Unsurprisingly, there are up-in-arms readers’ comments to the effect of ‘the government is in no position to talk about usage of social media,’ for example. John Goode, a photographer, says: “People that work in public sector organisations are not generally looked up to as thought leaders in how best to harness emerging digital technologies.” But goes on: “This work breaks the mould. Cool indeed…”

Alex, a web editor, responds: “. . . going to the point of stating a range of tweets a day and how spaced out they should be…well, if you gave the policy to me, I’d be put off by the number of rules I felt I had to follow.”

I wanted to know if the UK was the first to publish something on this topic so I asked Neil (via Twitter, how else?). He told me as far as he knew, just the The HHS Center for New Media, which serves agencies and offices of the US Department of Health & Human Services, had published a Twitter use strategy on their site’s ‘Standards and policies’ section and the US Government’s Webcontent.gov,  aimed at improving government websites, has published an online microblogging guide .

Also, turns out the Australian Government are considering following suit, it was reported in yesterday’s The Australian. Apparently Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and South Australia Premier Mike Rann are avid users of Twitter. “Another benefit is to make sure the channel is used consistently and carefully to protect corporate reputation from silly mistakes or inappropriate use,” Neil told The Australian.

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