I have a question rattling around in my head: is it ok for EPA’s main presence on Twitter, @usepagov, to primarily be fed by RSS, with only a smattering of handpicked content and actual human engagement? Or is that worse than not being on Twitter? We don’t have staff or governance to fully “personify” EPA’s main account at the moment.
My usual rubric says to go for it: define mission, match tool to it. Our mission is to protect human health and the environment, and putting info on Twitter where people can find it, without making them come to our main web site, helps fulfill that mission.
And I’ve seen many posts from people happy to have found EPA on Twitter. But the key question is what they expect, and whether doing it “wrong” will hurt our ability to communicate.
As I’ve said myself (as recently as yesterday), organizations who simply use social media as an outlet are missing the main point: being social. And by being halfway present, we risk making ourselves look clueless.
On the other hand, our blog Greenversations has more than 1300 followers. So at least those folks think it’s okay to use Twitter as a distribution mechanism (another example: the LA Fire Department).
Here’s the current state of things, which grew up because of my reluctance to “tarnish” our main account by not being fully engaged. But now I’m wondering whether we should feed everything EPA has to offer through that account and see what happens.
My team, the Office of Web Communications, runs 4 accounts. Other than Greenversations, we’ve never advertised any of them other than my rarely tweeting them from my own account:
- Main account: only occasional posts, but they’re always handpicked.
- Greenversations: our blog, fed by RSS
- News releases: fed by RSS
- Web updates: an experiment to see whether our team can keep it going with live tweets. So far, I’m not convinced it’s worth the effort. But this might be a good model of a cyborg: a combination of an RSS feed from our “recent additions to our site” feed and handpicked stuff.
Other parts of EPA also run their own feeds:
- Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds: another mix of RSS and handpicked
- Nat’l Center for Environmental Research: handpicked items
What if I shut down @usepaweb and @usepanews and plowed that stuff into @usepagov? I could also pick up what goes out via the other offices’ feeds. And I’d occasionally still add manual tweets. I’m not shutting down @greenversations because I think the followership shows it to be a success.
I still don’t have time or staff to apply to fully engaging on behalf of EPA, but at least it’d be another experiment to see what happened.
Good? Bad? A good experiment but you have doubts? Whatcha think?
Update (3/30/09): I kept the existing feeds, but used Twitterfeed to send @usepanews and @greenversations into @usepagov. So far, people continue to follow @usepagov at pretty much the same growth as before.