Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Organisational Twitter - How to tweet for your institution

As well as my personal account, I have been tweeting on behalf of Cambridge University Library - @theUL - for a couple of years now.  With CPD 23 things introducing more people to Twitter, and possibly getting someone think about setting up an account for his or her organisation, I thought the time would be ripe to share my thoughts about running a Twitter account on behalf of an employer.  So here goes:

1) Think about timing.  It is tempting to set aside 10 minutes before lunchtime to knock "organisational Tweeting" off your to-do list.  However, the result of this is a sudden rush of tweets into your followers' feeds and a drought at all other times: from a user's perspective, it takes more dedication to read 5 tweets from the same person at the same time (see boredom and/or information overload), than 5 single ones throughout the day.  Also, Tweeting at different times increases your reach; people log on at different times of the day - it is better that more people see less Tweets than less people see more.

2) Don't let it become personal.  It sounds obvious, but especially if there is only one person running the feed, personal opinion, @replies to friends arranging lunch or "my cat did x" type tweets are an easy trap to fall into (I've seen some, but will mention no names). Set up two accounts, one for you and one for your organisation. I keep mine on different platforms to avoid confusion. @theUL appears in TweetDeck, @laurawaldoch as an igoogle gadget - they look so different that there is no chance of accidentally posting in one rather than another.

3) Automatic feeds from blogs and news make up the "meat" of our Twitter account.  Using Twitterfeed, news published on our news site is Tweeted without any extra effort from us.  This also applies to blog posts. Various projects and departments keep blogs, and once published, those posts are advertised on Twitter.  The effect of this is that, whether they realise it or not,  a large pool of staff contribute to our Twitter presence. Small organisations may have a smaller pool from which get feeds, but anything with an RSS feed can be used in this way.

4) Initially it can feel daunting to @reply on behalf of your organisation, particularly in an informal way, but keep it friendly and polite (and banish those personal opinions!) and no one will mind.  It really does pay dividends to acknowledge and engage your Twitter followers in this way.  This immediate, personal contact has been the real value of using Twitter for us.

5) Within reason, occasional frivolity is a good way of softening a Twitter feed.  In May,  re-tweeted @marshable's photo of ducklings in the UL courtyard and the reaction to this was immense - the greatest number of re-tweets we have had to date, followed by an outpouring of nostalgia for the Library and for Cambridge in general.  Fostering a positive image of the Library seemed to me to be an end in itself.

These are my Twitter tips.  Do you have any others?  What has worked you?  And just as importantly, what hasn't?


  1. Great post, thanks Laura! Scheduling tweets has worked quite well for me, allowing me to do the "five minutes before lunch" thing but the tweets get spread out.

  2. Thanks Annie - that is really worth thinking about. I often think "I mustn't forget to tweet that", and then do, so scheduling would be good for that, too.

  3. This is a really interesting post. The school I work at does have an organisational twitter, but it is very much the baby of the PR department - she encourages people to suggest tweets, but always has the final veto. I don't think I can justify getting a separate one for the library until the school one has a few more followers! I like thinking about the practicalities of this though as it would be great to have one in the future - I'm a bit envious of you!

  4. Thanks angellibrarian. It can be hard for people to "let go". I think we were quite lucky to set this up 2 years ago when Twitter was not a big deal - we might face the same issue now.