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HHS Twitter Guidance

Twitter is a viral mechanism in that it leverages the concept of word-of-mouth-marketing by enabling an immediate reach to followers, who then can reach their followers. Benefits of Twitter include:

  1. Speed – information can be disseminated very quickly
  2. Broad reach potential – a network of networks can be quite vast
  3. Targeted reach potential – there is a growing number of niche interest groups growing on Twitter, including social marketing, health disparities, and health IT
  4. Collaboration – more and more professionals are using Twitter to network, build relationships, and look for mutually beneficial collaboration opportunities
  5. Continued growth as a conversation medium - developers have open access to the Twitter program code and can create new applications to better access, measure, and use Twitter

WHEN should my office/agency use Twitter vs. another tool?

Before moving your office/agency into the twittersphere, you (and/or someone from your team) should experience Twitter first-hand. Go to www.twitter.comexit disclaimer, create a handle for yourself, and begin tweeting and following others. Thenconsider using Twitter as a social media tool for your Agency/Office IF:

  1. The stakeholders you are trying to reach are on Twitter (ALWAYS applies). See Section III above as a starting point and then do your own research about your specific target audiences. Twitter has a search functionexit disclaimer that you can use to search for key terms about the work you do (there are also other Twitter applications created to gauge the popularity of keywords). This will allow you to measure what kinds of conversations are already happening about your work on Twitter and how you can add value to them.
  1. You have time-sensitive updates about your work that you want to announce (e.g., emergency or crisis management). You can harness the power of existing social networks (and tools like Twitter) to broaden your reach during a disaster or emergency situations.
  1. You want to connect with and update your stakeholders about events/conferences your office/agency participates in. More and more organizations are using Twitter to keep participants connected throughout their conferences and events. This allows participants to discuss the conference in real-time with other participants, provides real-time access to details about the conference for those that can’t attend, and provides real-time feedback for technical or other troubleshooting issues so conference organizers can quickly respond to feedback.
  1. You want to share information with your stakeholders in real-time about your work and share information relevant to your work. Remember that Twitter is a social networking tool. Sharing information means you should be prepared to:
  1. Share information not just about the work you’re doing but about work others are doing in your field. This includes ReTweeting other government Tweets (as they relate to your work) and other partner/stakeholder Tweets (as they are appropriate).
  1. Connect with people by asking and answering questions. Responding to feedback is essential AND can help provide helpful insight into what is and isn’t working for your stakeholders.
  2. Make sure to include criteria for ReTweeting and responding to inquiries from others in your Twitter Plan. For more details on how to craft your Twitter Plan, see Section IX.
  1. OTHER. Twitter as a tool is still being defined and diverse ways for its use in government are still being determined. Be creative!

When should my office/agency NOT use Twitter?

Do NOT use Twitter if:

  1. You want to promote a mostly static website. Nobody likes spam or self-promotion.
  2. You don’t have the resources to tweet at least once a work-day. This means at the bare minimum checking for tweets to and about you and responding and/or retweeting. This can take no more than 10-15 minutes, depending on the volume of tweets.

Set up your Twitter account

Username

Make your handle easy to remember and short. Remember that each letter in your handle cuts into the 140 character limit for others out there trying to talk about/to you.

Branding

The background of your twitter page can be personalized. Be creative with the background of your Twitter page while maintaining your brand identity.

Account Profile

Be clear about who the Twitter account represents (e.g., what initiative of what Office/Agency) and what people can expect if they choose to follow your account.