Public bodies struggle to cope with Twitter Volume

Public bodies struggle to cope with Twitter Volume

Evidence (if any was needed) of how public sector bodies are still struggling to understand what social media is all about. In the ‘follow the herd’ instinct by councils and other public sector bodies to set up Twitter accounts, there’s a dawning realisation that Twitter is not a one-way broadcast channel. It’s clearly come as something as a shock that citizens who follow these tweets may on occasion send a reply, or maybe even use the @xxxxx address as a means of communicating with the faceless entity they know as their ‘local council’.

“We are becoming an arm of our complaints service, but with no budget – and the complaints team itself won’t monitor Twitter,” says one delegate from the Building Perfect Council Websites conference.

Social media needs to be fully integrated with the organisation’s communications strategy, which means ensuring it is properly managed and resourced, and not a bolt-on activity to be managed by a small cohort of social media enthusiasts. Whether it’s a Twitter account or a corporate blog, you have to be prepared and resourced to handle these as two-way communication channels.

If you’re a public sector body and you want a broadcast channel, use your website (preferably with an RSS feed) and leave social media alone. You’ll find life a lot simpler, albeit less rewarding.

8 thoughts on “Public bodies struggle to cope with Twitter Volume

  1. Interesting that you could add to the list of problems the ICO’s rule that people can now submit FoI requests via Twitter.

    Presumably that means a legal obligation to check for @ mentions and if any of them pose a question then they have to be passed to FoI officers for a response.

  2. That’s an interesting point. As far as I’m aware there isn’t a legal obligation to check for @ mentions, e.g. for potential FOI requests. The public sector body is supposed to set out it’s procedures for contact by the public (including FOI) – normally on its website. If it doesn’t mention Twitter then it has no obligation to monitor that channel. However, it might be prudent to do so, if nothing else to see what people are saying about the service etc.

  3. Not sure you’re right about Twitter and FOI. My understanding is that until the ICO publishes further guidance, public bodies should be monitoring @ replies.

    From the ICO newsletter:

    “While Twitter is not the most effective channel for submitting or responding to freedom of information requests, this does not mean that requests sent using Twitter are necessarily invalid. They can be valid requests in freedom of information terms and authorities that have Twitter accounts should plan for the possibility of receiving them.
    … The ICO has also been asked whether a request in a tweet that only refers to an authority in an @mention, for example @ICOnews, is really directed to and received by that authority. The ICO’s view is that it is. Twitter allows the authority to check for @mentions of itself, and so it has in effect received that request, even though it was not sent directly to the authority like an email or letter.”

    It’s not down to the body to decide through which channels they accept FOI requests – they can’t pick and choose. If the ICO says they have to do it, they have to do it, regardless of what they have on their website.

  4. Mikey – thanks for pointing this out. I wonder how many public authorities are geared up for monitoring Twitter FOI requests – it certainly seems to be an issue for local councils according to my original post (and reference to the e-Gov bulletin)?

    I was just looking at the relevant section in the FOIA (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/36/section/8) – which appears to confirm your advice, but the FOI requester is going to have to be pretty succinct to get his name, address for correspondence and details of the request within 140 characters!

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