Why Tweet?

Tweeting is quick and easy to do. You can use it for a lot of different purposes but perhaps the most effective are:

I have written a guide to Twitter:  “How to be Twitterfective in 10 easy steps”.It starts with chapters on choosing your Twitter Name, Profile Picture and Twitter Profile before going on to talk about what makes a good Tweet. The following chapters look at the art of re-tweeting and discuss how to schedule and organise your tweets and liven them up with pictures and video before concluding with advice on how to measure the impact of your Tweeting.

Click to launch the full edition in a new window

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:

Should You Use Twitter?
Flowtown – Social Media Marketing Application

Twitter Basics

Twelve Top Twitter Tips – the first and last are the most important.

  1. Make your Tweets interesting.
  2. Flag them up to interested people by using hashtags – #Probation, #CommunityPayback, #MAPPA etc.
  3. Link, link & Link again to website/Facebook etc. – Twitter is a Golf Sale Sign, not a soapbox.
  4. If you want people to re-tweet, try to leave some characters free – you don’t have to use all 140.
  5. You can ask people to re-tweet: “Please RT” (just don’t over-do it).
  6. If you re-tweet, read any link first and if possible, add a pithy comment.
  7. If you change a Tweet before re-tweeting, use MT (modified Tweet).
  8. Put someone’s Twittername in a Tweet if you want them to see it.
  9. If you start a Tweet with @Twittername, only they and anyone who follows you both will see it.
  10. If it’s private use a direct message. You can only DM someone who is following you.
  11. If you make a mistake, you can delete the Tweet – but be quick about it.
  12. 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:

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.

Twitter People


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.

@ProbationAssoc and @ProbationChiefs are definitely worth following.


@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

More than half of all UK MPs are on Twitter. Check out your local ones and follow. @Tweetminster keeps a complete list.

Advanced Twitter

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:

  1. Tweets should be authentic (i.e. not done by another person, or generated automatically)
  2. Don’t just tweet corporate day-to-day business – who wants to follow someone that lists their meetings every day?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Engage as much as you can. Social media is about engagement not broadcasting. So when you can, respond constructively to comments and criticisms.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Get into the habit of quickly reading over your Tweets to correct any typos or spot any inadvertent meanings.
  10. When (no-one is perfect) you do make a mistake, acknowledge it quickly, lightly and with humour.
Grant Shapps MP has been on Twitter since 2008 and has produced an excellent guide to Twitter for MPs. Most of his tips are relevant to other public figures and bodies – and they are well written too!
If you or someone in your organisation are particularly concerned about the risks of using Twitter, you might like to have a look at this guide for best Twitter practice for Government departments produced by GovLoop, a US company that focuses solely on social networks for Governments.

Update 30 April 2012

@ConstantContact has produced an excellent quick Twitter guide: 25 things that make you look dumb on Twitter which is well worth a look

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