Readers' guide to Twitter
LGC invited the local government Twitter community to write a guide to using the site for their non-tweeting colleagues. Below is an extract. The full version is available at LGCplus.com/TwitterGuide
What it is
Twitter is a micro-blogging platform that allows people to share their ideas and thoughts with others who ‘follow’ them. Unlike Facebook where people follow their friends, on Twitter people follow those who share similar interests to them. It could be said that you follow the people on twitter who you wish you knew in real-life. Twitter allows a two-way conversation between people and twitter chats have been popular too.
People do share stories about their daily lunch patterns, but you don’t have to follow those people. More importantly though is the increasing number of #localgov and other public sector folk who are now using it to share learning, experiences, connecting with each other and exchanging knowledge around improving the public sector.
Why use it?
Simple: to get instant opinions on breaking news, for symbolic openness/accessibility from the top, and to create new networks.
The stuff I pick up on twitter helps me to be better at what I do. I am also fascinated by what other chief execs do and find it really interesting to follow their tweets.
Twitter allows me to listen to opinions I would never come across otherwise. It helps you to keep one eye on the horizon and its takes so little of your time to manage.
It is also a chance to get your ‘elevator speech’ to people who you wouldn’t otherwise reach. And to change it, refine it, and experiment with different ways of explaining why what you’re doing matters.
How it works
Couldn’t be simpler - go to www.twitter.com and set up an account. Follow some interesting people, post a link to something you find interesting, say hello and start a conversation. The best way to learn is to join in. But lurking – watching what others do without participating - can help you get the gist.
I started off by making a new year’s resolution to tweet and to make myself do it at least twice a day (weekdays). My original thought was to use it to communicate better with people in my organisation, but I wanted to get the hang of it first, so I haven’t encouraged people inside the council to follow me yet (though some do and I have some “secret” followers - so my spies tell me!)
- Feed - also known as “timeline” - a list of recent tweets from all the users you follow. Everyone’s feed is different, as people follow a range of different users
- # - Hash Tag - putting the hash symbol in front of a continuous stream of text is used to denote a topic of conversation (#localgov)
- @ - putting the at symbol in front of a username mentions that user in a tweet, and they will receive notification of your message. The message is not private however. (@LGCPlus When is the next issue out?)
- #FF - “Follow Friday” - Each Friday, users use this hash tag to recommend other twitter users. (#FF @LGCPlus)
- DM - “Direct Message” – a private message to a user which is not visible to other users of twitter. This can be done by using the “Messages” button on the top menu bar
- RT - “Retweet” - If you spot a particularly interesting tweet in your feed, you may choose to retweet (repost) it to your followers. This increases the visibility of the message and expands the audience who will read it.
Twitter is a conversation: don’t think you can speak without listening. Justin Bieber can get away with not following others: you’re probably not a teen idol.
If you ask for help/advice/case studies via Twitter, share the replies - other people will find them useful too.
Share generously with your knowledge, ideas and passions. Link to other people’s blogs and posts and acknowledge the source of your information.
You can reach completely different audiences: in Tunbridge Wells we held a ‘face the public’ event using Twitter and Facebook and had over 120 interactions, which compared very favourably to more traditional ‘village hall’ events.
With thanks to all who contributed, including those below and the people who contributed but didn’t leave their name:
@d_j_goodwin (chief, St Albans City & District Council) | @DuncanSharkey (chief, Worcester City Council) | @jhunter1973 (chief, South Cambridgeshire DC ) | @johnbarradell (chief, Brighton) | @mary_orton (chief, Waverly BC) | @RelHyde (chief, Broxtowe BC) | @RWSti (chief, Angus Council) | @tomriordan (chief, Leeds) | @TWBC_ChiefExec (Tunbridge Wells BC) | @AdeCapon (North Lincolnshire Council) | @annfromthegong (Aylesbury Vale District Council) | @annaleeb (Northamptonshire CC) | @benunsworth (Sutton LBC) | @carlhaggerty (Devon CC) | @DavidSmith1978 (Hay Group) | @delaval_astley (South Tynside Council) | @haypsych (Croydon LBC) | @helen_otuk (occupational therapist, @ihasdell (KPMG) | @jenniferheidi (council officer) | @kellyqhicks (South Cambridgeshire DC) | @loulouk (freelance local government communications) |@MayorRushmoor (Alex Crawford) | @monstertalk (social work blogger) | @salma_patel (University of Warwick) | @sarahlay (Derbyshire CC) | @shirleyayres (Aspire Knowledge) | @SimonDHope (Wakefield Council) |@stephenCanning (Braintree DC) | @totalplace (Local Government Improvement and Development)
How this guide was crowdsourced
1. LGC set out the key headings in a Google Document (like a Word document but online), which was
open for anyone to access without a password.
2. LGC tweeted a link to the document and invited local government people to contribute.
3. Users simultaneously typed in their thoughts, and watched others do likewise as the document grew
in front of their eyes.
4. Users could query, discuss and agreed changes.