Too busy for Twitter?

A common risk associated with public bodies engaging online in spaces like Twitter is that there’s too much interaction to cope with. It’s something that often gets raised when I am talking with clients.

E-government bulletin covered the issue recently:

A second delegate from an NHS hospital trust told the group that her communications team was underfunded to respond to social media. “We are becoming an arm of our complaints service, but with no budget – and the complaints team itself won’t monitor Twitter,” she said. And a third told the group that his council’s elected members were receiving such a volume of direct messages on Twitter they were unable to respond to them.

This is, I think, another argument for comms teams not to ‘own’ social media within an organisation. If complaints are coming in through Facebook, or Twitter (or whatever) then it’s the complaints team, not comms, who ought to be monitoring those spaces.

As I think I have written before, communications teams have an oversight role, and a championing one too. They look after the main corporate channels, manage the strategy and governance processes and look after arranging training and that sort of thing. Most of the activity should happen in service areas though.

It’s social media as telephone, not press release. Another way of putting it is that it is communications not Communications. In other words, it’s the normal communicating we all do everyday, by talking, using the phone, emailing and so on; rather than the formal Communications that happens with press releases, interviews and so on.

If you are in a comms team and are drowning in social media interactions that aren’t in your area of expertise, pass them on to someone who is responsible!

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Dave Briggs

I'm Head of Digital and Design at Adur and Worthing Councils.

3 thoughts on “Too busy for Twitter?”

  1. I agree with this, and the examples make for a disappointing read. Surely DMs to a Councillor’s Twitter account is no different to a text message?
    There is a role for Comms teams to enable their colleagues, at all levels, to use social media effectively, so by default they will own the channels for a while. But it isn’t as simple as setting up the channel and then handing it over, without any training or hand-holding.
    I suspect what really underpins this situation is a general lack of awareness of the importance of social media within organisations. Customer service teams, communications teams and everyone else within organisations should be taking an interest in social media monitoring, in the same way that they would take an interest in correspondence that arrives at the office.

  2. Agreed. Good post. The challenge is getting the right people in the organisation to use twitter and see the value in responding. From my experience in ‘Comms’ at local authorities people often fall in to two camps of two extremes – ‘it’s not my job I haven’t got time’ or they become fearful of what they say and where it will appear. (there are a few exceptions of people embracing twitter but these are few and far between). Whether the Comms team respond direct or an area expert responds, both usually result in a lot of leg work for the Comms team. I think it will take a while for the area expert that has worked in the job for 30 years to feel happy responding to twitter enquiries.

  3. That e-government bulletin snippet smells like comms teams that are failing to manage communications!

    If the comms team is running the NHS twitter account and they can’t accept complaints (and why not? Why annoy people who are already unhappy by making them jump through hoops to fit the structure of your bureaucracy?), they should refer the complainer to the appropriate web page or telephone number. Politely. Dave’s bottom-line advice is right: pass them on!

    Does the third delegate really mean direct messages to the councillor? I think DMs can only be sent by people you follow. If cllrs don’t have time to talk to people, why are they following them? If they did follow, then getting direct messages is the payback, so I’d reply at first, then unfollow if you get too many DMs from them. If they’re public mentions (@ messages), then I think bulk/batch replies are fine – and the delegate’s twitspeak jargon needs a refresher 😉

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