Cultural Heritage

A UKOLN Blog for the Cultural Heritage sector (now archived)

Emerging Best Practices For Institutional Use of Twitter

Posted by Brian Kelly on June 8th, 2009

In today’s rapidly developing technical environment there is a need to gain experience of the diversity of new networked services which can be used to enhance institutional objectives. There is also a need to document and share emerging best practices – whilst avoiding the temptation to develop constraining policies too soon – a danger which public sector organisations may be prone too.

As an example I have recently started to record videos of my talks at conferences and publish the videos soon after the event. I am pleased to have received positive feedback on this, including this comment:

Many thanks for providing the video and the Slideshare of your #CILIP-CYMRU09 event. I missed your presentation because I was “on a mission” for the following speaker at the conference, so I greatly appreciate this opportunity to catch up! …

You’ve done a lot to dispel this misunderstanding and fear here, in a very balanced and helpful overview. Joeyanne’s page provides a useful example of how Web 2.0 isn’t just about Facebook and Twitter, but is the working integration of a number of tools, all enabling dialogue and sharing. The examples you provide of the NLW using social web tools also add credibility and weight to these services.

Such feedback will help in the formulation of best practices and, at a later date, policies on being videoed at events.

Another area of growing interest to many cultural heritage organisations is institutional use of Twitter. Although Twitter may have been initially regarded as a trivial application by some in the sector, it is now becoming regarded as a tool which can be used to support institutional objectives. But rather than just leaping on the Twitter bandwagon there is a need to give some thought as to how Twitter might be used. For example, an organisation may wish to allow (or, possibly encourage) use of Twitter by individuals, to support sharing and informal working across a community with shared interests. This is a use case which Mike Ellis highlighted in his blog post on “The person is the point“. And if this is your aim, then your priority may be to allow access to Twitter through your organisational fireall.

But although this was the initial way in which Twitter was used by many involved in networked development activities, there are also a variety of ways in which Twitter can be used by an organisation, rather than by just individuals within the organisation.

Such uses could include:

  • Official important announcements
  • A summary of the institution’s RSS news feed
  • A channel for providing alerts of urgent news items.
  • A way of engaging with the institution
  • A way of engaging with discussions regarding events organised by the institution.

Each of the different uses are likely to have different workflows and different guidelines for best practice. Should an institutional Twitter account follow the user’s who have chosen to follow the account? Should an institutional Twitter account respond to queries or engage in discussions? Should an institutional Twitter account have a personality or should it provide a neutral tone? Should the content be provided by a team or an individual?

Lots of questions – and patterns of usage are beginning to emerge.  In particular via the Fresh and New(er) blog I came across a post on “Twitter information for your users – good practice from Mosman Municipal“, which linked to a discussion on “Australia: Mosman Council Twitter Guidelines“. The Mosman Council Twitter Guidelines make it clear who is providing the Twitter feed, the ppurpose of the service, policies on following other Twitter users and responding to comments, a privacy statement and a legal disclaimer.  I hope we’ll seem more sharing of such emerging best practice guidelines – but more importantly the discussions as to what constitutes best practice: a discussion which is taking place on the “Australia: Mosman Council Twitter Guidelines” blog post. Is Laurel Papworth, who wrote the blog post, right to be concerned when she asked”“WTF? A council trying to control the discussion on a 3rd party site?“. Or would you agree with her when she went on to add “it’s not their fault, it’s the mess we’ve got ourselves into with lawyers and courts and such. They’ve really bent over backward to be helpful and contactable to their constituents. Bless“?

One Response to “Emerging Best Practices For Institutional Use of Twitter”

  1. From Search Engine to Twitter Optimisation « UK Web Focus Says:

    [...] Consider publishing a policy: You may also wish to consider having a policy covering your use of Twitter, as described in a recent post on “Emerging Best Practices For Institutional Use of Twitter“. [...]