Wednesday 10 August 2011

What to Tweet: ideas for everyday organisational tweeting

Congratulations on setting up your corporate Twitter account. Now: what are you going to say?

For public sector organisations who are only just starting out, it can be daunting coming up with enough material to create a useful, active account.

Sometimes we all get tongue-tied when faced with “What’s happening?”

This is my go-to list, but I’d love to know what other types of tweets you post regularly.

News and media
  • Press releases – as long as they are not the only things you tweet. If you publish them on your website you may be able to generate an RSS feed to automatically post these to Twitter. 
  • Breaking news, such as disruptions to services or major incidents. Ensure you have the appropriate authorisation in place and it is part of your overall communications and media handling strategy. 
  • Positive news stories about your organisation. Even if they’re almost word-for-word reproductions of your press releases, the headlines used by newspapers are often more attention-grabbing, plus radio and TV news sites may contain supplementary audio or video clips. 
  • Instances of your experts talking about national issues in the media, being published or receiving awards - even better if you can trail them in advance of a TV or radio appearance.
You could also publish rebuttals of negative news stories, but treat with extreme caution especially if it’s an emotive or sensitive issue. If you get a direct question by @ or DM, seek an official line and advice from your press officer. It may be appropriate to steer the discussion offline. And sometimes it’s best to stay quiet.

Web, print and multimedia content
  • Links to new content, or existing content that you’re particularly proud of or that is particularly topical. This could be:
    • Video
    • Photos
    • Patient experiences 
    • Departments or services 
    • Transactions that can be carried out via your website
    • Job vacancies
    • Performance measures and statistics
    It’s ok to pick a random piece of content. People don’t read your Twitter account like a book so most of them they won’t remember you tweeted the same video when it was first put on YouTube 6 months ago and even if they do it might remind them to watch it, comment or retweet it. But don’t spam everyone with the same video every day for a week.
  • New publications, such as your annual report, corporate plan or even simple leaflets. If you have a regular magazine, you can tweet that the new issue is out, and repeat this while highlighting various articles over the following days. 
  • Your other channels (sparingly, as channels can attract disparate audience segments). Tell your Twitter followers you’re on Facebook, YouTube and Quora, as well as on the end of the phone.
  • Events such as open days and meetings. Trail them in advance. Invite questions before and during. Tweet updates and multimedia during the event, and link to the minutes, transcript or other records afterwards.
  • Fundraising for your organisation. You can’t link to each individual’s JustGiving page but you can draw attention to big charitable events or outstanding achievements.
  • Advice and campaigns. Whether it’s the winter flu jab or a campaign to keep a particular service in operation, Twitter can gather people together and spread messages. The messages you see on posters round your organisation can become the theme of a week’s tweets and you can invite interaction, comment and support, as well as sharing evidence and arguments.
  • RT compliments from service users – with caution. Do ensure you put the tweet in context by researching a little way into the timeline. It would be insensitive to retweet a compliment about your cancer nurses when the author’s father has just passed away on the ward. And ensure you also thank the user.
  • Invite comment. You’re on a social platform. Ask questions and request feedback about your organisation but ensure it’s then channelled appropriately.
  • Local news and events, especially those that are related to your organisation’s area of expertise and the interests of your followers. Thus local councils, health service, emergency services, universities, community groups and charities might, for example, retweet selected items of one another’s content. This adds to the sense of community and you may like to adopt a geographical hashtag.
  • Relevant national news and events, especially if you can add a local spin.

There’s no magic formula about how many tweets you should issue per day and it’s certainly better not to tweet than to constantly spam your followers (what not to tweet is a whole ‘nother blog post). One or two pithy nuggets a day might be quite enough, if the quality is high. Test different styles and frequencies on your particular audience, and see if it has an effect. The worst crime of all is silence – registering an account and never using it, or using it a few times then drying up completely.

Tell me about your sources of inspiration and what you think of my list.


  1. Okay...

    I think the core thing about social media is that it is meant to be social, therefore using it as a tool to 'broadcast' messages, doesn't encourage engagement or relationships.

    Firstly press releases - especially automated - should be a no-no. Press releases are written to target journalists - not general members of the public.

    Breaking news is a great one! Especially if it is helpful to the community - Great examples of this have come from official police twitter feeds over the past week. Some common problems with such posts, is that they are not updated frequently enough, and they 'stop' when the designated tweeter finishes his/her shift.

    Positive news stories are okay, but should not be handled in this way. (See above about press releases). Messages are so much better when they come from an actual person and include a little personality:!/sccevents/status/100935564395675648!/sccevents/status/100519656930033664

    Great point about different social channels attracting different audiences (wonder why this doesn't apply to press releases?!) Good idea to cross promote - but make it personal.

    I think ultimately keeping it personal and avoiding 'broadcast' messages are the key to a successful social media presence. I'm sure there's lots of human stories, achievements etc. that can be discussed from a personal point of view.

  2. Thanks Chris. Absolutely agree with your points about keeping it human and not using it as a broadcast medium. The only thing I would say about using press releases is that sometimes they are exactly the sort of thing your followers are interested in. Certainly a good proportion of the followers of @SUHT are journalists, health professionals and researchers, and these types of story are exactly what they expect to gain from following a large teaching hospital; the evidence shows PRs get some of the greatest numbers of retweets. Plus the style of our press releases is clear, with complicated subjects explained in plain English with catchy headlines, and relatively exciting topics covered, so that we get a good pick up from the red tops as well as quality press (and as I said, the papers often reproduce our PRs almost word-for-word). However, I wouldn't say this is the case for every organisation - you have to ensure that the material is suitable for the audience.

  3. It might be worth splitting into several twitter feeds:

    ie. public / press office / researchers

    Sadly cost cutting in journalism has led to a situation where press releases are printed word for word.

    Ultimately, the fact you are communicating via social media is something worth celebrating! - do you do any research into whats being said by people about the hospital?