How to write a corporate Twitter strategy (…and here’s one I made earlier)

Social media bandwagon(Cross-posted from the Cabinet Office digital engagement blog, with thanks for the guest spot.)

You might think a 20-page strategy a bit over the top for a tool like Twitter.

After all, microblogging is a low-barrier to entry, low-risk and low-resource channel relative to other corporate communications overheads like a blog or printed newsletter. And the pioneers in corporate use of Twitter by central government (see No 10, CLG and FCO) all started as low-profile experiments and grew organically into what they are today.

But, having held back my JFDI inclinations long enough to sit down and write a proper plan for BIS‘s corporate Twitter account, 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.

So in case it’s of use to others who are thinking of doing the same, I’ve turned BIS’s Twitter strategy into this generic template for any government Department:

Template Twitter Strategy for Government Departments – visit Scribd for a bigger version or to downloadEdit: Download as a PDF (if you’re having trouble with Scribd)

You’re welcome to re-use this however you like, be that to adopt it wholesale or remix it to suit the needs of your organisation. Let me know any changes you’d make (I am sure there will be lots) via the comments below, on the DirDigEng blog or get in touch directly.

For the next version of this document, prompted largely by Steph, I’d like to cover 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:

I hope you’ll find it useful too.

Some other Twitter strategy tips, if you’re hungry for more:

Image credit: Matt Hamm

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Comments

excellent, the corporates will love that, it sort of ‘legalises’ twitter.. well done, lot of work there that will save others the time and trouble, hope it gets used. My view of twitter can be summed up in a lot less space, (but is not as useful to these corporate peeps who like structured information in the above format).
I think the main thing they have to remember when using it is that they are accountable for everything they tweet, and that if they want to be a tweeter then they have to play by the rules, and not just tweet, and not just follow, but participate properly. (As you have said in your document) but that para says it simply. Twitter is a good tool for engagement, just like a spoon is used for stirring and a spade for digging, a rake for smoothing, a hammer for…
…good tools when used well.

This looks like a great action plan. We encourage small businesses to make use of Twitter and always try to signpost the measurable outcomes as a way of persuading people that the ROI is there.

Hi Neil. As you know I think this is brilliant and am compiling feedback for you.

I think it’s worth noting here that some of it is subjective and that one or two bits are incorrect (eg the way replies and DMs work), so that anyone else using it is aware that they must approach it as a draft template and not blindly adopt it as it is. They need to do at least a little bit of the work themselves, which is exactly as it should be! :-)

[...] when Neil comes along with a 20-page strategy for using Twitter, reactions are mixed. A lot of the comments [...]

Sadly I can’t get into ‘scrobd’ from work due to our Web Filtering and ICT Security policies. It would be useful if this could be posted to a site that is generally accessible, please.

In 40 years in the Civil Service, I never had the misfortune to read a document so otiose, so full of jargon and gobbledegook (not to mention osbcenities) as this one. Whatever happened to plain English? I am so glad I am retiresd!

Neil. Good work! Probably too much to ask that you persuade Govt to move to a conversational mode instead of dissemination.
Beware tweetake as a back up medium. It is seriously limited in terms of how much it can back up – and all restoration has to be done manually. Have you ever tried using it?

Good work, Neil. That doesn’t just work for a government department – there’s stuff in there for any corporation and a lot of good things for individuals, too.

I’ve set up a friendly redirect to the NDS Twitter feeds at davecole.org/NDSTwitter.

xD.

@Cyberdoyle – thanks for your support. I like your concise version.

@Michael – thanks again for the feedback, and I’ll watch your own version develop with interest. Glad mine is of use to you. This is exactly why I published it – to get feedback, make it better, and as source material others can adapt or take bits from for their own needs.

@Graham – Link to a PDF version now added in the main blog post above.

@Richard – are we talking about the *same* civil service? If we are, then we’re certainly not talking about the same media landscape.

@Mike – to be honest, no. Haven’t tried it. Would love to know what you’d suggest instead if you know a good tool for this.

Neil
I think that basically it is not possible to back up a twitter account at the moment because of the limitations on APIs(?). There is also no way to ‘restore’ an account if it does get hit by a bug – as mine did! See http://progmanager.wordpress.com/2009/07/27/twitterfail/ for the story!

I’m sure we are, but thank you for proving my point. “Media landscape” is a prime example of jargon, what on earth does it mean?

I’m saddened that people like Richard Miles think that a good use of energy is to complain rather than to offer suggestions for improvement.

As Neil mentions above, I have been developing my own version – based on his substantial initial efforts – for the organisation I work for: http://citizenshipfoundation.org.uk/blogs/webmaster/2009/07/28/twitter-policy/

Mike, http://tweetbackup.com reckons that it can back up a certain number of tweets, and that it will soon be able to allow restoration of posts and friends (http://tweetbackup.com/faq/ – no idea when that was written though); and Rohann Burkard has a tool for exporting tweets as an xml file (http://johannburkard.de/blog/programming/java/backup-twitter-tweets-with-twitterbackup.html). I’ve not tried either of them myself though.

Oh dear, I’m so sorry I have upset Michael, what a pity. If he takes the trouble to read my comment again, he will see that “offer suggestions for improvement” is precisely what I did. Avoiding the use of jargon is a very helpful suggestion, I think, as it would enable more people (perhaps even “people like me”, whoever they are) to understand Neil’s strategy document.

Thank you so much for your work and generosity, Neil.

Conversation and not just dissemination is the key for corporative twitter. Hopefully people like you, will have progressively access to public institutions all over the world and in all levels of government.

You will hear my feddback very soon. Thanks again and congratulations ;)

[...] this post from Neil Williams, head of corporate digital channels at the UK central government’s [...]

[...] How to write a corporate Twitter strategy [...]

[...] documento, de 20 páginas, ha sido creado por Neil Williams, director de los canales digitales de comunicación del propio BPI. En él se puede leer que los [...]

I think I’d disagree with you on one thing; Twitter feeds that run off RSS aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Quite a few people use something like TweetDeck to set up their own news feed – I know I do – as it’s a covenient of just flashing up headlines. I suppose it’s like the BBC news ticker with more than one content provider. There’s an argument to be made for something similar with government news feeds, which was part of the logic behind the unofficial NDS twittering.

Richard,

Media landscape refers to the current combination of factors, including declining ad revenue, working out how to make money online and the impact of social media, that define how people interact with news and other media.

Given that the target audience for Neil’s document is not necessary convinced of the merits of Twitter or its mechanics, I’d say it’s pretty clear. It explains a complex and changing situation well.

xD.

[...] documento, de 20 páginas, ha sido creado por Neil Williams, director de los canales digitales de comunicación del propio BPI. En él se puede leer que los [...]

[...] How to write a corporate Twitter strategy (…and here’s one I made earlier) "After all, microblogging is a low-barrier to entry, low-risk and low-resource channel relative to other corporate communications overheads like a blog or printed newsletter. And the pioneers in corporate use of Twitter by central government (see No 10, CLG and FCO) all started as low-profile experiments and grew organically into what they are today." (tags: web2.0 marketing social twitter communication socialsoftware government) [...]

Thanks for all rhe replies, I hope not too much public money is being spent on ths. Anyway, I won’t bother you again, I’m bored now and going to play somewhere else.

[...] This post was Twitted by lalolaila [...]

[...] médicos (lógico). – La segunda es la guía que ha salido estos días a la luz, elaborada por Neil Williams, del Departamento de Empresas, Innovación y Formación del Gobierno Británico, que invita a los [...]

PS I do hope you were all listening carefully to David Cameron on Wednesday, after all he may well be the boss next year. If you missed them, you can listen to his opinion of Twitter here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2009/jul/29/cameron-swearing-interview

[...] been two and a bit weeks since I published the template Twitter strategy, and one and a bit weeks since the story [...]

[...] How to write a corporate Twitter strategy (…and here’s one I made earlier) – Neil Williams, Head of Corporate Digital Channels at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills at Downing Street, published a draft twitter strategy template for government departments. It caused quite a stir… you can read it (and some comments) here. [...]

Its a nice template which is very useful to me.thank you for sharing this post!

Hello! I really enjoyed your document! I work as a Web Marketing Analyst for a construction company here in Brazil and I´m planning to translate it to portuguese (with a few adaptations).

I´ll let you know when it is ready!

Congratulations for your work!

To be honest I am surprised it is ONLY 20 pages! The amount of guidance each department needs and amount of legal implications demands rigor.

Good job though

Thanks! There’s actually a version 2 of this doc, which brings it down to 16 pages and says the same stuff plus a bit more. If anyone wants it, send me your email address. I’ll upload it at some point too.

Vitor – do let me know where to find the Portuguese version, out of curiosity. ;)

[...] Most recently mainstream businesses have joined the Web 2.0 phase by creating Facebook profiles/groups, making viral marketing videos and starting corporate Twitter feeds. These examples and more have become part of  corporate marketing strategies http://neilojwilliams.net/missioncreep/2009/how-to-write-a-corporate-twitter-strategy-and-heres-one-... [...]

[...] digital tools; from launching the first cabinet minister blog for David Miliband in 2005 to writing that 20 page (~259 tweet) strategy for how to engage via [...]

This is awesome! Thank you. Do you have similar strategies to share re: Facebook or corporate blogs?

Thanks Neil! This is exactly what I was looking for. Mine needs to be two pages max but your doc covers all the important aspects of running a Twitter campaign.

[...] This post was Twitted by DavidSpinks [...]

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