Tweeting is quick and easy to do. You can use it for a lot of different purposes but perhaps the most effective are:
- Developing an audience for you and your Trust
- Driving people to online content
- Making people aware of new events and developments
- Giving your audience an idea of what probation does
- Reacting quickly to news stories, policy announcements etc.
- Getting quick views on a practice or policy issue from your peers across the country – or world.
- Sharing frustrations/funnies with peers – careful about the former if you are Tweeting officially
Should you be on Twitter?
If someone in your trust is thinking about setting up a Twitter account, you can help them think through their reasons and how they are thinking of using it.
There is a great infographic by Flowtown that can help them get started:
Twelve Top Twitter Tips – the first and last are the most important.
- Make your Tweets interesting.
- Flag them up to interested people by using hashtags – #Probation, #CommunityPayback, #MAPPA etc.
Link, link & Link again to website/Facebook etc. – Twitter is a Golf Sale Sign, not a soapbox.
- If you want people to re-tweet, try to leave some characters free – you don’t have to use all 140.
- You can ask people to re-tweet: “Please RT” (just don’t over-do it).
- If you re-tweet, read any link first and if possible, add a pithy comment.
- If you change a Tweet before re-tweeting, use MT (modified Tweet).
- Put someone’s Twittername in a Tweet if you want them to see it.
- If you start a Tweet with @Twittername, only they and anyone who follows you both will see it.
- If it’s private use a direct message. You can only DM someone who is following you.
- If you make a mistake, you can delete the Tweet – but be quick about it.
Get lots of followers.
Remember: If you are Tweeting on behalf of your Probation Trust, all Tweets are public, so don’t Tweet anything that you wouldn’t be happy saying face to face to your Chief Exec!
Who are you tweeting to?
There’s little point Tweeting if you haven’t got any followers to read your Tweets.
Getting followers is pretty straightforward:
- Search for the people you want to read your Tweets and follow them, most will follow you back.
- Look at who these people follow and are followed by, follow them too if they look interesting.
- Lots of influential Tweeters (those with lots of followers, keep lists, go to their Twitter homepage and peruse them)
- Make your Tweets interesting (“If you build it, they will come”)
- Ask Tweeters you know to introduce you to others
Below are some resources to get you started but remember, when choosing who to follow, always have a quick look to check that someone is still active and tweeting regularly.
If you are looking for UK probation people on Twitter you can look at or subscribe to my up-to-date list.
Clicking on the list will also show you what probation people have been talking about recently.
@NickKeane is the digital engagement manager at the National Police Improvement Agency and keeps a great set of current lists of police officers who Tweet, broken down into a range of useful groupings: corporate; unofficial; City Centre etc – all the way down to Police Helicopters. Well worth perusing to find your local #iPlods.
Criminal Justice Organisations
I have put together an eclectic list of tweeters who are professionally involved in the criminal justice system or in providing services for offenders. What they have in common is that they are either prolific tweeters and/or have large followings. If they find one of your Tweets of sufficient interest to retweet, you will reach a larger audience and perhaps attract new followers.
Members of Parliament
Twitter is evolving rapidly and there is no consensus about the right approach. Different things work for different people and we all have Tweeters we love to follow and can’t stand. However, there a number of key concepts that it is important to grasp:
- Tweets should be authentic (i.e. not done by another person, or generated automatically)
- Don’t just tweet corporate day-to-day business – who wants to follow someone that lists their meetings every day?
- Focus on your audience – Tweeting is a public platform, your main focus should be on stakeholders, sentencers, media, the public. It is fine to use Twitter to chat with colleagues, especially from other services, but not many not probation people will be interested.
- Sound like a human – it’s actually tricky to get the balance between being professional and being real, especially if you’re running a Trust account, but the odd piece of gentle humour or wordplay makes you more worth following.
- Do spend time on your Twitter profile – it should be clear who is tweeting, what they do at work and have a CLEAR picture or logo. Corporate accounts should of course link to their website so that someone who finds you via an interesting Tweet can find out all about you.
- Engage as much as you can. Social media is about engagement not broadcasting. So when you can, respond constructively to comments and criticisms.
- Don’t forget to build your audience, if you are spending only 10 minutes a week Tweeting, there is still not much point if you have 50 followers and half of them are other probation Tweeps or family and friends.
- Link, link and link again. Remember, Twitter is not a Soapbox (otherwise Speaker’s Corner would have shut down), it’s a great big neon signpost.
- Get into the habit of quickly reading over your Tweets to correct any typos or spot any inadvertent meanings.
- When (no-one is perfect) you do make a mistake, acknowledge it quickly, lightly and with humour.
Update 30 April 2012