Twitter Tips From Downing Street

U.K. Government Wants Its Bureaucrats to Tweet Properly

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- The British government wants its many departments to avoid having dry, by-the-numbers Twitter feeds, so it's issued a 20-page internal strategy document to help them best use the microblogging service.

With 36,215 characters and spaces, it would take roughly 259 separate tweets to spread the word about the document on Twitter.

The guide is written by Neil Williams, head of corporate digital channels at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, who introduces it thusly: "You might think a 20-page strategy a bit over the top for a tool like Twitter ... but I was surprised by just how much there is to say -- and quite how worth saying it is."

He advises ministers to avoid "pointless content" but instead to "provide an informal, 'human' voice of the organization" by tweeting "no less than twice a day and no more than 10."

Mr. Williams outlines a number of risks associated with Twitter, including "criticism arising from perceptions that our use of Twitter is out of keeping with the ethos of the platform (such as too formal/corporate, self-promoting or 'dry')" and "inappropriate content being published in error."

Tweets, he says, should be "varied," "human," "frequent," "re-tweetable," "timely," "credible" and "inclusive." The government won't initiate contact by following individual users, in case it's interpreted as "Big Brother"-style behavior, but he points out that it is "good Twitter etiquette to follow people back when they follow you."

The priority is to add value with insights and thought leadership, although recent tweets such as "@DowningStreet has reached one million followers. Thank you to everyone who has signed up to follow our updates" and "The PM has written a letter outlining a number of current Government priorities, which you can read here" show that the government still has a lot to learn about engaging followers in the medium.

Twitter, he says, should also be used as a "primary channel alongside our corporate website" in the event of a major incident.

On his own blog, "Mission Creep," Mr. Williams describes himself as "a dad, a husband, a web geek, a government web manager, a gardener, a keeper of hens, a comedy writer and a music fan." He used to run a comedy website called Idiotica.co.uk.

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