Tweeting Away at EPA

Last fall, I wrote about this blog’s Twitter account, @greenversations. Since then, several folks across EPA have been trying out Twitter, with varying approaches.  Today, I got this question from Randa Williams, a researcher at the University of Washington who’s looking into best practices for businesses on Twitter:

I wonder when you will start having conversations rather than just broadcasting on twitter…Lots of EPA broadcast channels on Twitter, exceptionally few conversations. I know, engagement is more work, wondering if you had thought about expanding into this area.

It was such a good question, I thought I’d respond publicly as well as emailing her.

Randa is right: the gold standard is conversing on Twitter and other social media sites, not just broadcasting. But she’s also right that it takes resources.  Not just someone’s time, but also having the right person, who’s plugged into what’s going on around EPA and who knows how to speak to the world on EPA’s behalf.

There are also different ways to use Twitter, and we’re experimenting with most of them.  For example, we’ve done a little live tweeting, with plans to do more.  There are also different approaches to who to follow, how frequently we can commit to posting, etc.

We do have a couple of good examples of interaction for content on a smaller scale than “all of EPA:”

While we figure out the gold standard (interaction), we’re doing what we can on what I call the tin standard (broadcasting). Given the number of followers, it seems a decent number of people appreciate even that.  Here are some of our other accounts:

  • @EPAgov – our main account.  Primarily our automated news release headlines and blog posts, plus a few web updates and manual tweets.  This account combines content that’s also split into individual accounts, and is also available on normal Web pages:
  • @EPAlive – we’re occasionally experimenting with using this for live tweeting
  • @EPAowow – Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds
  • @EPAairmarketsmarket-based regulatory programs to improve U.S. air quality
  • @EPAregion2 – regional office in New York
  • @EPAregion3 – regional office in Philadelphia

We’re also working up some conventions, like starting our account names with “usepa” and using the same seal as the avatar.

Not quite in the same category, some of us are also tweeting professionally. We’re not “representing” EPA per se, but we’re using it as a professional network and information source.  For example:

  • @levyj413 – this is my Twitter account, and I use it to discuss social media in government (especially EPA)
  • @suzack777 – this is Suzanne Ackerman on our web team.  Suzanne uses Twitter to research projects like blogger outreach, and uses Twitter to make contacts and discuss related issues.

So thanks, Randa, for reminding me that we need to communicate more about what we’re up to.  Stay tuned for updates about our other social media efforts, too (in the meantime, join us on Facebook!).

Jeffrey Levy is EPA’s Director of Web Communications.