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Whitehall and Twitter July 29, 2009

Posted by letitiahughes in social media.
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So the government have written a guide on Twitter. As a number of news outlets have suggested, it is really quite ironic that while the point of Twitter is brevity, the government official twitter document is 30,000 characters or 259 tweets – I havent reached that number of tweets in total yet.

I suppose in fairness, although Tweets are short, the whole Twitter phenomenon is a lot bigger, especially if you include the plethora of Twitter tools, so a detailed report could be required. What is more, the report talks about how the Government is going to manage its corporate presence on Twitter  – I know lots of other orgnanisations are requiring similar lengthy ”guideline’ conversations at the current time.

The report also says that all departments need to become regular Twitterers, not just Downing Street and the Foreign Office. The report suggests departmental digital teams discuss potential tweets at the morning press cutting meeting. This leaves me hoping that they have not still missed the point, after all it is not just about regurgitating news, but about engaging in relevant conversations.

Another slight mistake may be the stipulations about tweet frequency – some days there may be a requirement for more tweets than the maximum of 10, especially if responding to some tweet questions for example.

More interestingly, the report says that there should be exclusive content online  – such as insights from Ministers on key meetings, and answers to questions from the public. Although I am not sure that we need  to know updates on ministers whereabouts through out the day.

A final point is that uninvited following is discouraged, in fear of being branded Big Brother, but it is apparently acceptable to follow back people once they follow you. I am not so sure about that – I would like to think that if I was saying something that was of interest or important to a Government department, be it DECC or Treasury, that they would just follow me no matter what.

Ok, so what do I think? Well I would say that the report has probably not covered everything, and like all of us, there is always more that can be learnt, but the fact that the effort is being made to engage usefully with Twitter can only be a good thing.

Connecting with Constituents February 27, 2009

Posted by gbcpublicaffairs in social media.
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An interesting study has been published by the Hansard Society, with the support of Microsoft, looking at how MPs use digital media to communicate with their constituents.


Now we already know the extent to which Barack Obama used digital media as part of his election campaign, getting people involved through web forums, text messages and online blogging, but what about the more everyday task of communicating with constituents.


This report shows the findings of a survey of 168 MPs and a subsequent focus group of MPs and parliamentary staff. The finding confirm that the internet is now part of the everyday life of the vast majority of MPs. MPs use email and websites but also rich media, such as uploading videos and photographs. Other tools like social networking are also being adopted by MPs, but at a lower level.


The findings suggest that primary motivations for uptake of digital technology relate to an MPs majority, length of incumbency and the nature of their constituents. MPs report issues with regards a desire for more training, and knowledge that it is actually their constituents communicating with them.


The report provides recommendations for both MPs and constituents. Citzens are encouraged to break down barriers with the more resistant MPs, as engaging with digital media is of more benefit to them. I agree as the whole idea of a digital democracy is encouraging more of a conversation, that it in a citizens best interest to promote the use of the internet to their MP.


The key recommendation for MPs is to develop a policy for the use of email and digital media that define the audience and connect with their offline strategy. I think this is really important if MPs are going to use social media to communicate with their constituents as a tool for democracy. They need to ensure they truly engage with social media, and understand the principles behind it – the need to listen not just broadcast. A token contribution will not really work to communicate with their consituents.

By Letitia Hughes