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.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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@Wormlady is our 400th Twitter follower

About the author: Jeffrey Levy joined EPA in 1993 to help protect the ozone layer. He is now the National Web Content Manager.

Two weeks ago I wrote that we’d hit 300 people following us on Twitter. I invited them to mention us, to see whether our follower count would jump, and promised a follow-up.

Only one person did tweet us, as far as I could find on Twitter search. Thanks, wingy22!

Yet in the past two weeks, we’ve picked up another 100 followers. Six months from 0-300, two weeks from 300-400. Errr … 401 … 402 … umm … wait a sec … 403 … make that 408. Anyway, @wormlady was #400. I put her name in the title because that’s about all that actually shows up in Twitter’s 140-character posts, so I’m hoping she’ll notice her name the next time she logs in.

Anyway, the sudden jump amazes me. Was it as simple as noting we’re on Twitter in a post, as opposed to just having the link on the right?

Let’s try the same thing on Facebook and MySpace. We’re not doing much there yet, but we have big plans, and knowing there’s interest helps. If you want to know when we do get going, become our fan on Facebook and MySpace.

How to engage the most people isn’t an idle question. The first time, for example, that we take comments on a regulation via social media, we’ll want to get the biggest bang for the least effort (efficient use of your tax dollars, doncha know).

What do you suggest?

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.