Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Three suggestions that would improve @WhiteHouse - or any other communications-intensive organization: Use more hashtags, respond to followers, allow guest/ghost tweeters.

The White House Twitter feed recently created a survey and asked followers to submit their opinions on how they liked @WhiteHouse and how the @WhiteHouse team could improve their feed.  Here is a quick list of three suggestions that would improve @WhiteHouse - or any other communications-intensive organization.

1. Use hashtags

Yes, @WhiteHouse was good about tagging the quotes during #MESpeech, but aside from that, their twitter feed is largely bereft of hashtags.  Using hashtags serves two important goals: First, for people who use TweetDeck or HootSuite, and break their feeds into columns, it helps tweets stay visible by putting them into conversation feeds, and not simply one big follower-feed.  Second, it enhances the value of tweets within search engines (like Google Real Time) by making them more easily searchable and contextualizing them within the search. 

2. Respond to followers

I'm not suggesting that @Whitehouse follow each of its 2 million followers right back and answer all their questions, but certainly more than a few of those followers are posting high-value, on-topic, relevant, interesting, pithy tweets.   Why not respond to questions, give an "amen" to good posts, and even voice polite disagreement (with links!) to people who seem genuine in their opposing view?  Knowing that @WhiteHouse was paying attention might also raise the level of debate/discussion among its followers (knowing that they might be rewteeted, people would be likelier to post more relevant, pithy, high-value material).

3. Highlight others' tweets (two possibilities: 1. create public lists and RT selectively, 2. create a guest/ghost twitterer program)

Related to #2, highlighting others' tweets would create more diversity within the feed and give a glimpse into the thinking and pace of @WhiteHouse team without requiring full time-commitment to expanding the feed or complete control over every aspect of every tweet.  To retweet select followers would show that @WhiteHouse is not only listening, and not only speaking, but truly engaging through Twitter.  It would also increase the value of @WhiteHouse's feed by expanding the editorial voice and adding some surprise to their feed. There are two ways I could see to do this:

1. create lists and make them public

I could see a few interesting lists that @WhiteHouse could create:

  • Domestic-Journalists
  • International-Journalists
  • Athletes
  • Comedians
  • Community-leaders
  • Clergy

Of course, a problem to overcome would be: who gets on each list.  But that's both the promise and peril of twitter: in giving a platform to some voices, @WhiteHouse is by definition refusing that platform to other voices.  On the whole, however, I think it is better at least to make the lists and allow people to follow them than not to.

2. Create a guest/ghost twitterer program.

Though this would exacerbate the granting/refusing a platform problem, it would also be much more exciting than creating lists.  There are two ways this might work: the first is that @Whitehouse select one of its followers who consistently posts high-value, relevant tweets and for one day retweets all of their posts.  The second course (and the two are by no means mutually exclusive) is that @WhiteHouse select a person from within the White House or some other agency and turn @WhiteHouse over to them for a day.


Why Even Bother?


The goals for all three of these options are to use twitter as an engagement tool, not only a communications medium, and to increase interest and participation in the white house twitter feed.  In other words, enacting these changes would enhance two of the White House's stated goals for Open Government: Transparency and Participation (I would also add that this is innovative, but would not necessarily spur innovation).

What are some of your ideas?

For more about optimizing social media, check out this presentation:

How and When to Use Social Media

View more presentations from Gadi Ben-Yehuda