The Unit Twitter account (2009)

There was a recent CNN article describing the different types of annoying Facebook users, as if the author’s way was the only way to ‘correctly’ use Facebook.

The truth is,  there is no right or wrong way to use all these social media tools. There are different techniques, but what might work for one may not be good for another.

So with that in mind, here is how I use Twitter for work.

For the unit Twitter account, I stick the unit crest for the avatar.

The Name field has the unit and PAO (1HBCT PAO or something similar). Location and website are standard.

In the Bio field, I make sure two things are added:

First is the (Following does not=endorsement) also used by the Army.mil Twitter account. This is important because you don’t want to be seen as endorsing an account of any kind. Follow other accounts that are relevant to your unit. Take a look at the Army Twitter account, other military Twitter accounts, and maybe add some accounts relevant to your geographic location when getting started. One note on this – people can change the name of the account while you are still following them. For example, I could follow a Twitter account that is @ILoveArmy, and then at some point in the future the owner of that account can change it to something like @F*#!theArmy and you will still be following it. So my suggestion is to just keep your (Following does not=endorsement) in the bio and periodically check your followers.

Second is I put the name of the person that is maintaining the account. For example, ‘Maintained by [insert rank/name].’ I do this because it is not a computer that is putting in the updates, it is a person, and your followers should know who is behind the tweets. Not everyone does this, but I think it is a good idea.

I use the unit account primarily for outbound info and for driving traffic to our website. Most of the posts are “Just updated photos on Flickr” or some other social site updates with the URL shortened link. It is also used for getting brief info out during an ongoing event.

We don’t have issued iPhones or Blackberry’s here, so I don’t want to have someone spending all his/her time at a desk in front of a computer waiting for people to interact with them on Twitter. My guidance has been to put information out, provide links when we update our other sites, and check it every once in awhile for @ mentions and DM’s (direct messages).

By far, the best tool I use for Twitter is Tweetdeck. As popular as Twitter is, I think its user interface is awful.

There are a lot of other microblogs out there that have a much better user interface than Twitter in my opinion, but Twitter has got the majority of the people.

Tweetdeck lets you have columns for all your followers, for ‘mentions’ and for ‘direct messages’ and for any specialty subjects.

You can make groups and have a column for them if you get a lot of followers.

I have a little over 13,000 followers on my personal Twitter account, but I don’t try and follow and listen to all of them. I use a list to narrow it down. You can also have a column for your Facebook or Myspace wall feed as well.

With all that said, this above way is not the only way.

I noticed that US Navy CAPT Ed Buclatin is the administrator for the US EUCOM Twitter account. He has his own photo as the avatar and because he’s using it this way, I see it as coming across a bit more personal as I watch the feeds come streaming down my Tweetdeck.

This can be good or bad for your organization, but like I mentioned in the opening paragraph there is no right or wrong way.

If you want to take a look at some other Army Twitter accounts, go to the All Army Social Media page..

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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