Twitter is a great way for your agency to easily share information with your constituency, provide emergency updates, research what people are saying about your agency and communicate with organizations in your industry. This Tip Sheet provides you with some guidance on creating a successful Twitter account for your State agency.
Planning Your Twitter Initiative
Twitter is a free social networking tool which uses short messages (140 characters or less) known as “tweets” to share messages from your organization. Like other social media tools, an agency should plan how to best use this engaging tool. When creating your Twitter strategy consider these steps:
- Develop a Written Plan: The foundation of any media initiative is a well thought out strategy. The written plan should outline the objectives, key roles and responsibilities for creating and maintaining the agency’s Twitter account. The plan should also include any workflows for approving, posting and responding to “tweets.”
- Get Requisite Approvals: Seek approval from appropriate decision-makers throughout your agency to create awareness, establish proper protocols, and gain buy-in from key stakeholders and participants.
- Identify the Purpose: Most state agencies use Twitter as another avenue to share special announcements and press releases. Your agency needs to determine whether this is the sole purpose of your Twitter presence or if you would like to also directly engage your constituents. The purpose of your Twitter account will determine the level maintenance your account requires. For example, agencies that choose to respond directly to constituents must do so in a timely manner or lose credibility. On the other hand, agencies that solely post press releases may not attract their target audience since there is a lower level of engagement.
- Identify the Workflow: Determine who will be adding message to your Twitter account and the approval procedures before doing so. Remember that Twitter is real-time communication so your messages should be timely.
- Develop a Schedule: Twitter is quick messages so there is an expectation of frequent, timely updates. Be sure to send messages out 2-3 times per week to build a following.
Creating Your Account
- Sign up: To sign up for a new Twitter account go to http://twitter.com. Then create a username that corresponds with your agency name (i.e., the New York State Department of Labor’s Twitter username NYSLabor).
- Design your Twitter page: Twitter allows you to customize your agency profile picture and twitter homepage.
- Search for followers: Gaining followers is crucial to effectively spreading your message. One way to gain followers is to follow other people or agencies. By following other agencies, businesses, media outlets and people you will increase your following and in turn your message will go further.
Twitter Best Practices
Twitter has created a guide to help organizations create a Twitter account. It can be found at http://business.twitter.com/twitter101/
- Be interactive: The goal of Twitter is facilitate a conversation with your followers. Write in a friendly, conversational style and avoid using industry jargon. Use twitter to pose questions to your followers or answer questions from constituents. If an answer requires a more complete response or is sensitive in nature, give instruction on how to continue the discussion through another medium. Also, if someone you are following tweets something interesting or relevant to your audience, re-tweet the idea on your own account.
- Be responsive: Respond to tweets in a timely manner. If your agency is slow to respond to a tweet, then your agency might lose creditability in the eyes of your followers.
- Use Twitter to gain feedback: You can use Twitter to promote your agency by posting press releases and news articles about your agency. Additionally, your agency can use the search function in Twitter to find out what people are saying about your agency. Feel free to engage people who tweet about your agency even if it is negative. By recognizing and responding to their tweet, it will shed a positive light on your agency as well as improving the relationship between you and your target audience.
- Use hash tags: Twitter users use hash tags to allow tweets to be easily searched and categorized. Hash tags allows users to create buzz around an event and allow others to easily find and chime in on the conversation. If your agency is launching an initiative or having a special event, promote it by using customized hash tags.
- Re-Tweet Relevant Information: Share messages from your followers that would be interesting to those following you. Sending a message from another follower is called re-tweeting.
- Promote your Twitter account: Gaining followers is essential to effectively using Twitter to spread your agency’s message. To promote your agency’s twitter profile, include links to your twitter page on your agency webpage, agency branded social media sites and email signatures. Include your Twitter username on press releases, agency presentations and business cards.
- Verify your Twitter account: Twitter is currently beta testing a feature that can verify accounts for government agencies. Before you apply for account verification, make sure that your profile is active and complete. This includes including links to your agency’s webpage and having your profile set to public and actively posting tweets. For more information on Twitter account verification visit http://twitter.com/help/verified.
Twitter Security Considerations
Twitter is susceptible to many of the same threats encountered by any social networking site. These threats include: account hijacking, phishing, social engineering, and malware infection. Defending against these threats requires a multi-layered approach which is best accomplished by using a combination of policy, training, and technical controls.
Policy and training are critical countermeasures in defending against account hijacking, phishing and social engineering attacks. These attacks rely on user behavior which is best addressed through well defined policies and awareness training. Policies should provide a clear direction on what is expected of staff within the organization. Training should communicate these organizational policies, familiarize users with the application’s interface, as well as educate users on how to identify and defend against potential attacks.
Policy and training, however, is not enough. Technical controls must also be in place to protect the organization’s information, systems, and reputation. Here are some recommendations that will reduce the risk posed by these threats and limit the damage caused if there is a compromise:
- Strong passwords – externally hosted social media sites may not require strong passwords. The criteria for strong passwords should be defined in an organizational policy. This will reduce the likelihood of a hijacked account and unauthorized use and modification of your site.
- Use unique usernames for the administration of your site – this will help ensure any modifications to the site, intentional or unintentional, can be attributed to a single user.
- Disallowing the use of privileged accounts for web access – in the event a user is exposed to a malware installation, an account with limited privileges may prevent a successful installation.
- Moderate all posts and allow “plain text” comments only – moderating content prior to posting will allow for the detection of malicious links and/or inappropriate material. Requiring “plain text” comments reduces the risks associated with active content.
- Evaluate links prior to clicking or posting - Use software like AVG Linkscanner or McAfee Site Adviser to inspect a link’s destination for malicious behavior.
- Consider all information hosted on a 3rd party site to be public – don’t rely on the security of the application to protect your data. Privacy policies change frequently on 3rd party sites and holes are routinely uncovered in their application security.
- Up-to-date patching of system, browser, and browser plug-ins – this will reduce the risk to your systems by eliminating known vulnerabilities.
- Configure browser correctly and securely – this will help prevent attacks from exploiting the browser. Many of the newer browsers have increased security features, such as DEP (Data Execution Prevention) and XSS filters, which can further reduce the attack surface.
- Use a secure Web gateway – forcing all Internet traffic through a secure gateway can prevent a user from accessing a malicious site or prevent malware from reaching the end user system.
- Up-to-date virus definitions and scanning – this will help ensure that malware which has been successfully installed on the user’s system does not persist on the system.
- Host-based Intrusion Protection System (HIPS) – HIPS agents installed on the host may prevent a malware installation or restrain the behavior of malicious code once installed.
- Backups should be performed regularly – this will ensure a site can be restored to a working state in the event a compromised allowed for unauthorized modification of the site.
A series of applications are available to assist you in posting Tweets from both your cell phone and your computer. Below are some examples of applications.
At an event involving your agency and want to tweet during it? Twitter recently launched official applications for Blackberry, iPhone, and Android mobile devices. These mobile applications allow you to receive and posts tweets and pictures from one application. For more information on the official Twitter mobile applications visit the links below.
Instead of logging on to Twitter through your internet browser, there are a series of applications that can be downloaded to make posting to Twitter very simple.
Here are examples of Twitter applications:
Because you are limited to only 140 characters a post, it will be difficult to fit an entire URL in your message. To solve this problem tools are available to shorten URL’s to a more manageable size.
To Use: Simply paste your URL into the field and click, “shorten”. Then, copy the new URL and paste that into your message.
Using Twitter on your Agency Webpage
Many popular websites allow users to easily share articles or announcements by including a re-tweet button on their web pages. Twitter has developed a re-tweet button that can easily be integrated into existing web pages. When users click the re-tweet button, you can suggest that the user follows you on Twitter. For more information regarding the official Twitter re-tweet button visit http://twitter.com/goodies/tweetbutton.
If you are at an event or location you can share photos with your Twitter followers using your mobile device. If you have already added a mobile Twitter applications you can attach a photo to a tweet. If you are using your desktop you can There are also other programs like twitpic, or yfrog.
Popular Twitter Terms
- Twitterverse: Anywhere tweets are sent or read
- Tweeting: The act of posting to Twitter
- @username: Replying to someone’s tweet or directing a tweet to someone
- Twitter stream: A collection of tweets
- Twapplication: Twitter application
- Retweet or RT: Sending a tweet sent by someone else to your followers
- Follower: Someone who receives your tweets
- Twhoops: A typo, mistake or a private message that was accidentally made public
- Twellow: The unofficial white pages for Twitter.
- Twitter bio: Who you are in 140 characters
- Twalking: Walking while twittering via text
- DM me: A request for someone to send you a direct message
- Favorites (the star icon next to tweets): Bookmark notable tweets
- woogle: TTo use Twitter as you would Google
- Twitterati: A-list / celebrity Tweeters
- #topic (the hashtag): Groups / categorizes tweets by keyword
- Twitter Hashtags: www.hashtags.org
- Twoosh: A full 140-character tweet
- Noise: Tweets that aren’t useful or too promotional
- 12seconds.tv: A site that functions as Twitter in video form
- Tweetup: An in-person meet-up of people who met through Twitter.
- Twittonary.com: Explanations of various Twitter-releated words
- Twhirl: A desktop client for Twitter www.twhirl.org
- Twitter Search: Search Twitter for keywords and topics www.search.twitter.com
Provided by: The Poynter Institute
A more descriptive definition of these terms can be found at: http://business.twitter.com/twitter101/learning
Download the Empire 2.0 Twitter checklist to help guide you as you prepare to create a Facebook page. For additional questions or new information read the Empire 2.0 blog or contact the CIO/ITS Empire 2.0 & Emerging Technologies group at: firstname.lastname@example.org.