Brits give government Twitterers wings

British government issues 20-page guide on how to use Twitter and stay out of trouble

The British government is leaping headlong onto the Twitter bandwagon.

Government officials are encouraging departments and employees to fire up their computers and get Twittering. Neil Williams, head of corporate digital channels at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, posted a blog last week on the British Cabinet Web site that included a link to a 20-page guide on how to best use Twitter.

"You might think a 20-page strategy is 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 communication overheads like a blog or printed newsletter," wrote Williams. "I was surprised by just how much there is to say -- and quite how worth saying it is."

Williams noted in his blog post that part of the guide focuses on how to convince non-believers that there is benefit to Twittering. He also shows users how to set objectives and to guard against inappropriate use.

He said that Twitter is a good way for government employees to connect with British citizens and get feedback and questions from them.

This doesn't mark the U.K.'s first foray into using Twitter or other Web 2.0 services. The prime minister's office Twitters, along with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

On the other side of the pond, the U.S. government has been diving into Web 2.0 services, like Twitter, Myspace and Facebook. The White House uses the sites to push out information about President Barack Obama's speeches, his health care plans, the H1N1 virus, and other subjects.

In March, the White House held an online town hall meeting where citizens could pose questions via the WhiteHouse.gov Web site. The online meeting attracted some 92,928 users who submitted 104,111 questions and cast 3,606,658 votes for queries they wanted answered.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
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