[LINK] AGIMO Tweeting for your Country

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Thu Mar 31 03:48:19 AEDT 2011

The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO)
has outlined its plans to add more elements to its social media
functionality, first assistant secretary of the organisation, John
Sheridan, has revealed in a blog outlining his speech at BarCamp 2011


Tweeting for your Country: a personal view of some principles for social

By John Sheridan - AGIMO 

Last Saturday, I attended BarCamp 2011, which AGIMO co-sponsored. An 
eclectic gathering of individuals, it covered a wide range of subjects 
with 20 minute presentations covering matters such as Gov 2.0, social 
media, robots, agile programming and lots more..

I presented on ‘Tweeting for your Country’, a further development of the 
principles of social networking, in and for the Australian Public 
Service, that I spoke about a week or so ago at the TransTasman CIO 
conference and later tweeted. 

I have had several requests to blog about these principles. It has been 
our practice to post presentations we provide so that they are freely 
available to all those interested. In that spirit, I have decided to post 
this. Please note, they are not official policy, just my observations 
developed in the 18 odd months during which I have had some 
responsibility in this area. 

The principles are divided into three groups – guidance, risks and entry. 

These three are each represented by an acronym – LEFTS, RIGHT, and YES. I 
have liked acronym-based principles since my dad helped me memorize the 
rivers of NSW for geography in primary school. Of course, I can’t 
remember them now – but I blame the drought for that.


Locate: to be successful in social media, you need to go where your 
audience is, not expect them to come to you. It’s not like the ‘Field of 
Dreams’. Just because you build it, it doesn’t mean they’ll come. Use 
hashtags on Twitter, find discussion groups or similar on Facebook, 
employ the RSS feeds on news sites – all these will help you find your 

Engage: people expect you to be involved, not just a tourist. Social 
media is two way communication.

Follow: tweeting without followers is like solitaire – even if you win, 
no one cares. Following people who are interesting or involved in the 
issues in which you are interested (hopefully both!) will encourage them 
to follow you. As this occurs, you build your audience and thus the 
effectiveness of your communication.

Trust [your staff]: one person can’t engage with the social media 
universe on behalf of an organisation by themselves. We trust all manner 
of public servants to engage with the public every day, over counters and 
over the phone. We can trust them on social media too.

Share: collaborate not just communicate. Social media isn’t about 
broadcasting (mostly – there’s clearly a valid case for public interest 
social networking broadcasting for emergencies, etc).


Risks: all activities have risks and social media is no different. Here 
are some considerations:

•Context: social media comments are made in a context but can be quoted 
out of it. Make sure your public comments can’t easily be maliciously 
reused. Use links to provide the context so others can follow what you 
really meant.

•Media: when media people ‘friend’ you they may not really be your 
friends! Nevertheless, social media tools do provide a useful mechanism 
for establishing the facts for readers. Commenting politely and factually 
on an online story to correct a misleading headline (sub-editors, I’m 
looking at you) or wrong information can stop a runaway story in its 
tracks. In a government context, it can stop such a story from becoming a 
full fledged media inquiry in the mainstream press, and the need for 
subsequent ministerials and question time briefs.

•Profile confusion: be careful to distinguish between speaking in an 
official, professional or personal capacity. If you aren’t commenting 
officially for your organisation but people could think you are, make 
your status clear. For example, as I said at the outset of this post, 
these are my personal views, not AGIMO policy. The subsequent headline 
could say “AGIMO executive states …” but the status is clearly explained. 
Of course, the more senior you are, the harder it is to maintain the 
distinction – that’s why they are called risks.
Incremental: you don’t have to start your social media engagement with a 
major campaign. Start small, manage expectations, build your profile over 
time. Test things out, be prepared to deal with dead ends and occasional 
failures. Expect mistakes and plan for them. Gracefully apologise for 
mistakes and quickly correct them. The audience is more forgiving than 
you might think.

Groups and Lists: public servants know about organisation and so does 
social media. On Twitter you can create lists of followers to make 
following easier. This is particularly useful if you have varied 
interests and follow people in each of them. At work, I can keep an eye 
on my gov2au list and while watching the Brumbies, I can concentrate on 
the rugby list. If you are following lots of people, this can be very 

Hierarchy: don’t forget your day job. Although it can be really 
interesting, it’s unlikely you’re being paid just to do social media. 
Before you make a career of it, make sure your boss is happy about it. 
Also, anarchy doesn’t rule. Commenting about work related matters is 
tricky. It should be okay to tweet about what you know and what you do. 
It probably isn’t okay to tweet about what other people do and what you 
don’t know.

Trolls: don’t feed them. Trolls make comments to attract attention, stir 
up controversy or just to be difficult. They are easy to recognise but 
hard to resist. You have to try. Also be wary of Twitter tough guys. 
These are people who are much braver behind a keyboard than face to face. 
Arguing remotely with them won’t work – don’t!


Yammer: Yammer is a social media tool like Twitter but only people on the 
same email domain as you can see what you send. It’s like an internal 
Twitter account. There are other similar tools – Microsoft’s SharePoint 
has one you can pay for (basic Yammer is free). AGIMO is also considering 
options to add more social media functionality into future versions of 
our govdex internal collaboration service. These provide a safe 
environment in which people can experiment with social media without some 
of the risks of the mainstream varieties. It can be a good place to start.

Educate: social media is a new skill. Not everyone knows what to do yet. 
Help others. Share ideas. Ask questions. There aren’t that many experts 
in this field and there’s nothing to feel overawed about.

Some simple steps (the four ‘Rs’): register (get a log on to Twitter or 
Facebook or both), read (statistics suggest that for every one person who 
writes a blog post, 10 people comment  and 100 read it – just reading 
social media on line is a good start), retweet (retweeting is just like 
repeating a joke you heard from someone else – something most of us do 
every day), finally – really get stuck in, you’ll be surprised how easy 
it is.

That’s it then — LEFTS, RIGHT, YES!

Rating: +17 (from 19 votes)



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