Originally planned as a joint post with Graham Budd on his blog, it soon became apparent on this occasion that drafting considered content by two different authors in the same post just wasn’t going to work. So here is my post below.

If you’ve visited Blether And Blogger before then some of my principles may seem more than a little familiar…

Graham’s position in A training environment for Twitter (part 1) is mainly this: in his daily role he offers staff new to Twitter the opportunity to draft and publish tweets from their workplace account through and with coaching from him in the first instance.

I’ve liked his approach for some time now and I’ve heard him present and discussed with him about this and other aspects of his work. Go check out his post and blog. I recommend it. Infact, defying all convention, I’d recommend reading his post on that first then returning to read mine.


A training environment for Twitter (part 2)

With Twitter having just celebrated its 7th birthday, it is clearly in social media terms an elder yet one with plenty of growing ahead.

Still, however, with social media trends shifting as rapidly as the information and news that circulates through it, the challenge to the public sector remains, how to climb onboard the rollercoaster?

Live and let tweet (safely with support)

The evolution in social media channels such as Twitter for those of us using it day-in-day-out, personally or professionally, is constant. From planning, action and evaluation, to harnessing and employing learning to shape our own social behaviour is a cycle with more than a few wobbles. True, we make mistakes but it is how you learn and where you’re going that is defining, not metaphorically where you are.

Those new to social media, including Twitter, don’t have the benefit of such experience upon which to build. If that is you then it is understandable you may not be convinced or aware of the potential power and reach of social media, and exactly how it can help organisations listen to, engage and empower people. Conversely you may not understand the adverse impact or interest seemingly innocuous comments can generate.
MSP tweets

Take the recent Comic Relief contribution made by Fiona MacTaggart MP. Having stated she’d donate £1 for every retweet, Twitterati took it upon themselves to make sure Comic Relief got full value… 14,268 retweets and some vexatious replies later, the MP wrote her cheque, making national headlines and dividing opinion.

I think it was Robert Louis Stevenson (!) who said, “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean…in 140 characters” – the essence being, understanding the power of social media is crucial, particularly during planning and delivery.

That’s why I’ve listened to and read with interest about Graham’s approach to offering people a safer learning environment than they otherwise would have available, especially to mitigate and reduce corporate and individual risk. I’m a strong advocate for more widespread and consistent use of social media by the public sector, as part of an integrated approach with traditional media, to improve engagement.


Quelle surprise, I still challenge people though who claim that the public sector should ‘just do it’ (JDI). That is, open up social media channels to staff so we communicate publicly as proficiently and commonly through social media as we do through email or telephone. Without planning like Graham’s, that is totally irresponsible and naive.

Recently, ‘just do it’ has been adopted as a principle, not about rules governing how and what can be shared but rather who and how soon. I’ve said in my own blog before, those of us who are advocating more intensive public sector social media engagement have responsibility. This includes protecting staff from their own (unwittingly) risky or naive behaviours, perhaps like that of Fiona MacTaggart MP.

With no out of office on Twitter someone needs to look after your account when you’re sunning yourself on the beach or ill, to rescue your account when it is hacked into out of hours and sensitive or potentially serious misinformation or libelous content shared.

Someone may need to highlight to or educate some clinicians or allied health professionals for example that tweeting even the smallest detail that can identify any patient without their consent risks breaching patient confidentiality.

And what about staff – who is going to help internal engagement through social media? Someone needs to decide the most effective channels and how internal proliferation of platforms can be avoided and connectivity promoted.

Or what about the risks that social media could actually increase health inequalities; how do we promote equal access to information? Indeed, what about equal access to networks – should providing free WiFi in public spaces be part of the package of supporting engagement? I believe as part of a whole-system approach, it should.
City WiFi

Play safe

It is clear to me a truly strategic approach is required to engage and understand who our audiences are, their needs, and how and where we are going to engage them, both digitally and traditionally.

NHSScotland’s Quality Strategy aims to deliver the highest quality healthcare. It seems to me that the three elements upon which the strategy is based, safe, person-centred and effective, exactly fits the approach to social media that I’d advocate the public sector adopts.

I like the idea of Graham’s approach, there is a need for a training environment for Twitter and it connects with these three latter elements – but I’d like to see another step added, that evaluation looks at how people from all population and socio-economic groups can equally access information and digital customer services.

I personally think digital exclusion is a massive issue with too little evidence available and focus afforded. For me it’s the next big inequality issue, it’s virtually in the here and now.

Take it easy

Photo Credit: ru_anderson via Compfight cc

3 thoughts on “A training environment for Twitter (part 2)

  1. Pingback: A Training Environment for Twitter (Part 1) | The Buddster's Blog

  2. Pingback: Smoke, journalism, knickers and a mermaid | weeklyblogclub

  3. Nice to hear someone express a little bit of caution regarding social media. There seems to be a lot of evangelising about how social media is the answer to everything and we should let everyone including the cleaner loose on it. I agree with the idea of JFDI but the reality needs to be handled a bit more sensitively – for the employee’s and the organisation’s protection.

    Having said that, I reckon a tweeting cleaner would have a proper tale or two to tell about life in the office after hours, clandestine meetings in darkened rooms, and many a dodgy document left on a desk…

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