Why this site?
To examine an example of the multi-channel Twitter strategy.
As a country wide federal agency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has split their twittering into:
- General news feeds
- Specialized interest news feeds (like RSS)
- Localized Twitter discussion groups.
As confirmed by the Web Communication lead, their overall Twitter mission includes Education, Outreach, Promote Awareness and personalizing their business. The localized groups are quite recent and are divided into the same regions as the EPA has divided the United States. Currently epaRegion9 and epaEspanol are the more personalized and hotly interactive, including news links back to their sites, re-tweeting to non-EPA links, responding to followers and tweeting towards interest group hash tags.
While a news feed can be set up with an autofeed tool, interactive social communication requires dedication of some (all?) employee resource time, time taken away from other duties. In its very nature ‘real time’, one must consider when, about what and how often to tweet so our communique falls not on deaf ears.
Here is one of theirs, Region 9:
@eparegion9: One of the EPA’s more hybridized, conversational Twitter IDs.
Joined: November 25, 2008
Date data downloaded: July 30, 2009
Industry Sector: Government
Twitter ID: @epaRegion9
Ratio followers/following: 3 to 1
Account created: November 25, 2008
First post: February 4, 2009
“Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway to Pay Nearly $1 Million for Brown and Bryant Superfund Cleanup http://poprl.com/GW5”
Bio: News, highlights, eco-tips, and other goings-on from the U.S. EPA Pacific Southwest region. CA, AZ, NV, HI, Pacific Islands.
Location: San Francisco
Background: Dark Blue background with large, lime green, zoomed in photo of a leaf. Color from photo used in sidebar. Trim/link color same as BG. Colors evoke EPA site choices while not being exactly the same.
Avatar: Gov Logo, same on most EPA Twitter Feeds. This consistency lends authenticity. However, I found when I subscribed to more than one EPA Twitter channel and used an outside application (TweetDeck) to follow it was impossible to discern which channel I was following. Suggest modifying each avatar to show Logo in back with some unique identifier in the foreground.
Transparency: It is not clear on the Twitter site who is Tweeting. However in an email discussion it was discovered that the Region 9 Tweets are by one employee who actually lives within our region. As a former government employee, I realize one can have mixed feelings about just how public of a public servant one wishes to be. In addition, employees do eventually change job positions. Therefore, it is logical to keep the keep the ID more anonymous so it eventually can either change over to a new tweeter or if the work load grows, expand to include many tweeters. Maybe a query to your follower group would provide feedback on this question.
Bio Link: As with most, we are taken to the Tweeters website, in this case the Region 9 EPA site http://epa.gov/region09/. I would suggest a navigation box somewhere on the page with avatar images for their “New Media” links such as is housed on the EPA main page. This could bring more traffic to the Twitter sites, blog and other media links.
Of a 100 Tweet Sampling: Replies 4, ReTweets 40, Hash Tags 14, Favorite Tweets 9
According to the 100 tweets postedbetween June 12 and July 29, 2009 a smattering (4) were responses while forty percent were retweets of relevant news from those they are follow-ING, many of whom are also follow-ERS. So while this tweeter is clearly listening to what is being said, the conversation is not yet happening on a grand scale. I commenting at the EPAs blog, Greenversation, asking if they might be increasing their conversation soon. Within 24 hours I had an email response from @levyj413, the EPA Web Manager. After quite a lengthy email discussion, he summarized our discussion on their blog here (July 17, 2009-Thanks Jeffrey!). His blog posting gives an excellent view of how they divide their work into multi channels. I should also note that although this ID’s first tweet dates back to last November, most of their tweeting is only since the end of this May, only a couple of months. The other question I consider is this, the EPAs main website is very comprehensive. I wonder, if ones total web presence is complete…maybe there are fewer questions to be asked of a Twitter business site? Or is it we the public are not accustomed to asking questions of the public agency with expectation of getting a response? Regardless, simply having started this discussion has inspired other EPA personnel to inquire on how they might increase interactions through social medias.
@epaRegion9‘s start is well-rounded, ratio of follower to following is balanced and retweets show a good amount of listening and sharing from diversity of sources. It will be interesting to see how the conversation increases in coming months and how they decide to stir it up. I would suggest changing their avatars to make each Twitter ID visually slightly more unique to help attributing their feeds while using Twitter apps, which are a necessity if one is following multiple feeds. Consider as well telling a little more about who is tweeting for the ID, in general if not specifically. Makes it a bit more personal.