Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers. Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends or, by default, allow open access. Users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter website, Short Message Service (SMS) or external applications. While the service costs nothing to use, accessing it through SMS may incur phone service provider fees. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter)
Departments Using Twitter
One of the most widely used government applications of Twitter is for emergency notification and public safety. Police can post crime updates, fire departments can inform citizens about local fires, and state departments of transportation can announce traffic alerts. The Los Angeles Fire Department provides citizens with updates on structural fires, offering information on the number of responding firefighters as well as the number of injuries and casualties. Twitter has also been used by the public sector to establish a dialog between citizens and the government. It is most commonly used for alerts, announcements, event, new offerings, questions, and news.
- California’s Official Twitter Account
- State Agency Directory – Listing of all state agencies, including their social media accounts
- All State Agencies and Departments on Twitter – “Twitter List”
Let us know about your Twitter account. It should be included on the master list on the CA.gov website.
- Signup for a free Twitter account. Your username will be your profile name. For example, our user name is cagovernment, and our profile is @cagovernment or www.twitter.com/cagovernment.
- Choose a strong password with numbers, letters, and symbols. Make your password difficult to reduce the chances of being hacked. Change your password occasionally and don’t use the same password for everything.
- Complete your profile including your bio, website address, and profile picture. Filling in your profile information will help people find you on Twitter. Make sure you provide a link to your Twitter account from your agency/department website – this confirms to people that your Twitter site is official.
- Add a header image to your Twitter page. It will overlay your avatar, name, twitter handle, description, etc. to the top (see @cagovernment for an example).
- Change the design. If you do not have a custom background for your department, please use Twitter Background Template (below) provided by the Governor’s Office (instead of using one of Twitter’s default backgrounds).
- Your Twitter profile is public by default. If you are still working on your design, bio, etc., you can protect your profile until you are ready to go live. Remember to unprotect it later so your updates can get into search.
- Find people to follow. You can search by name, or visit California’s main account to see who we are following.
- Let us know what your profile is. We want to make sure we link to all of the State Twitter accounts from the main account.
Twitter Background Template
Optional: Use this image if you do not have a custom design of your own (image provided by Governor’s Office). Please do not use one of the premade themes.
- Click and save to your computer
- Go to the “Design” tab in your account “Settings”
- Change background image
- Upload attached image (leave “tile background” unchecked)
- Change design colors for background: 495E7B and links CC0000
- URL Shorteners: Because of the 140 character limit of each tweet, it can be difficult to include full URLs in a message. There are many free services that allow you to convert a long URL into a shorter one. For example: Bit.ly and tinyurl.
- Frequency: Most recommend a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 10 tweets per working days, with a gap between tweets to avoid flooding your followers’ Twitter streams. Not counting @replies or live coverage of a crisis or event.
- Retweetable: Even though tweets can be as long as 140, try to restrict your tweets to less than that to allow other sufficient space for others to share (or RT) your tweets.
- Following/Follow-Back: Some agencies choose to follow everyone who follows them, and others choose to follow only governmental, non-profit organizations, or other relevant organizations.
- Stick to Your Area of Expertise
- Know your audience and keep your content consistent
- Try to post meaningfully and respectfully – in other words, do not spam and do not make remarks that are off-topic or offensive
- Always pause and think before posting
- Don’t use Twitter to blast off press releases – think conversation
- Share links and resources
- Share information about your agency
- Reach out to people who use your services
- Talk about upcoming events
- Ask questions
- More Twitter tips and best practices – HowTo.gov
Authenticate Your Page
It is a best practice to authenticate your site, providing reassurance to users that your Twitter page is official (i.e., it is not a spoofed account). Here are ways to do this:
- Provide reciprocal links:
- Link to your Twitter account from your CA.gov site, and to your CA.gov from your Twitter account.
- Use a recognized, official logo, or brand mark as your profile picture.
- Use a custom background image to provide information about your authenticity (e.g., DMV and California).
- Apply for a special “verified account” by emailing Twitter. While their verification program is closed to the public, Twitter approves official government accounts on a case-by-case basis. Requests may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. To be considered, requests must:
- Come from a .gov (or appropriate jurisdictional equivalent) e-mail address.
- Provide for each account name the full name of the entity it represents.
- Provide for each account two contact names and .gov (or equivalent) e-mail addresses.
- Be regarding a non-protected account that has started tweeting and has a complete profile, including: real name, biography, photo and a .gov (or equivalent) URL.
- Include the URL of a .gov (or equivalent) webpage that references the account either with a link or follow button.
Track Your Tweets
Using Twitter’s analytics tool (analytics.twitter.com) you can view a graph of mentions, follows, and unfollows, as well as a per-tweet count of favorites, retweets, and replies. You can also export the information to a .CSV file for further analysis.
Embed Your Tweets
- Twitter Widgets – The easiest way to place Twitter feeds on your website is to use one of Twitter’s widgets. An example of the Twitter List widget is on the CA.gov website.
- RSS Feeds – Twitter outputs RSS feeds, so these feeds can be used throughout your website and other services in creative ways. For example, the State is using Twitter feeds in the News.ca.gov portal. These feeds are also brought over to the CA.gov portal pages.
- Enterprise: List of 40 Social Media Strategy Guidelines – Laurel Papworth
- Glossary of Terms – Twitter
- Microblogging and Twitter – HowTo.Gov
- Social Media Program (PDF) – Department of Motor Vehicles social media metrics and benefits
- Third-Party Apps – There are hundreds of Twitter third-party applications that are freely available. For example, using HootSuite, you can can schedule your Tweets in advance, and TwitPic allows you to post pictures on your Twitter updates. Only give your user name and password to trusted third party applications, and take precautions when it comes to your account safety. Twitter does not officially support these applications.
- Twitter Best Practices – HowTo.gov
- Web 2.0 Governance Policies and Best Practices – Social Media
- What are the Rules of Engagement for Twitter? – Government Social Media Blog
For assistance, please contact us.