An anonymous tweeter based in a West Midlands Probation Hostel, @SWMPTrustAPLive, writes about why s/he tweets.
When I first dipped my toe into the twittersphere as @SWMPTrustAPLive it is fair to say I caused a few ripples. In fact ripples might be understating it slightly. Panic is perhaps a more accurate description. Well, in the ivory towers of Staffordshire West Midlands Trust’s headquarters anyway. “Who is this mysterious loose cannon, carrying the Trust’s name in such a cavalier and uncensored manner?”. A stern email popped up on my computer. “Can the person tweeting as @SWMPTrustAPLive please contact the head of communications urgently”. “Ooops” I thought.
One sheepish phone call later and my account was officially stamped with the SWMP Trust brand. “It’s only him from the AP, he’ll be fine, he’s a safe pair of hands”. Are they regretting that decision several hundred tweets later?… Quite possibly!
So, why did I start tweeting? “Good question” I thought. I think frustration probably summed up my initial motivation. Timelines across the twittersphere were and still are bursting with bland corporate tweets. In fact if you cover up the company name or job title from most of them they are like identikit tweeters. “…really productive meeting today with X”, “I am so lucky to have such a great team around me at….”.
I’m sure their meeting was productive and their team is the best ever, but does anyone want to read about this? Not really. The beauty of the APLive account is that to an extent it is free of these shackles.
Communicating the frontline experience
What I try to do is offer a balanced flavour of life on the Probation frontline. Sure I’m restricted to an extent but hopefully my tweets paint a picture of life in Approved Premises which somewhere approaches the reality. Yes the role of APs is crucial in protecting the public, and yes there are as many lows as highs. It’s a serious role where at times we have to make difficult decisions and because of the nature of the people we work with we’re often let down. Does this mean life in APs is doom, gloom and long faces? Not in our AP it’s not. There’s no point doing the job if we don’t enjoy it. That, I guess, is why I tweet. To paint this balanced picture. And the beauty of Twitter…. if it’s not your cup of tea just click ‘unfollow’!
Do’s and Don’ts
Do I have any tips or dos and don’ts for people embarking on their first venture into the world of Twitter? If you’re tweeting under the banner of a particular organisation then you are constrained to an extent as their employee or representative and your tweets need to reflect this. For example I couldn’t tweet from the APLive account about selling confiscated contraband on Ebay to fund the Christmas party. Or indeed about winning the staff sweepstake on Joe Bloggs being the first resident to be recalled in 2012. This would be wholly inappropriate. Ahem.
After a while you’ll develop a tone and a style that works for you and for your followers. If it isn’t a match then they’ll be off. I get as much enjoyment having serious debates on twitter with fellow practitioners about contentious issues as I do from the more light hearted material. If I didn’t enjoy Twitter them I’d hang up my tweeting boots tomorrow. As for what my employer gains from my Twitter account, I’m not really sure. I haven’t had my P45 yet, so I guess that’s something at least!!
Next Wednesday: @Clare_McGregor, who has a unique job coaching women prisoners at HMP Styal, on why she Tweets.
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