Tweet tweet, bye-bye – reflections of a reluctant tweeter

The following blog post is from one of our tweeting statisticians, Richard Campbell.

I have recently said goodbye to Twitter. To be precise, I’ve said goodbye to having an active ONS Twitter account. This follows a move from being responsible for consumer inflation stats, to working in the Organisational Development team. My feelings over my Twitter departure are mixed. On the one hand, I will miss the engagement with those interested in our statistics. On the other hand, I feel that a burden of responsibility has been lifted from my shoulders.

The truth is that, despite trying, I have never loved Twitter. To me, tweeting has always felt a bit like shouting things out randomly on the street and hoping that somebody is listening. I should be clear that I do like social media and am a Facebook junkie – it’s just that Twitter has never gelled with me.

Given my personal feelings, it might seem odd that the social media team asked me to blog on this topic. After all, what is the benefit of getting somebody who is not a fan of something to talk about it? My guess is this. Twitter is an incredibly important way of us engaging with our users. We are still in our infancy in embracing it as an organisation and need to do more. While hearing from converts and fans will work for some of you, perhaps my disinclination, yet acceptance of Twitter while it was relevant to my work, will speak to others.

So, if you work in an output area and are wondering about the benefits of Twitter, but aren’t sure, let me leave you with these 3 thoughts.

  1. Twitter will help you reach new audiences. It’s all very well putting out releases on our websites, but Twitter has a greater readership than we do. Building a presence on there will enable you to build your engagement and open another avenue for people to see (and, more importantly, use) your stats. An example that sticks in my head is one of my tweets on inflation being picked up on and reported by the BBC during a period where statisticians were failing to get on TV.
  2. You have to be on the ball. When we receive letters or emails, we have days to concoct and send a response. This isn’t a luxury available on Twitter. Whatever your views on the matter, social media has set up an expectation of almost instantaneous responses. Leave it a week and people will think you are not engaged. This would be bad for our reputation. My point here is that you need to be ready to respond quickly and rationally if you are going to use Twitter. If you are somebody who likes to switch off from work totally when you are on holiday, then it would be worth considering having somebody else handy to monitor and respond from your account.
  3. Twitter will help you communicate better. There is a quote attributed to many people which goes along the lines of:  “I’m sorry for writing you a long letter. If I’d had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.” The point here is that writing short, but effective, communications is harder than writing longer documents. In terms of writing formats, they don’t come much shorter, or punchier, than tweets. Writing effective communications in less than 140 characters is a very effective discipline for improving the quality and punchiness of your writing.

I hope you find these thoughts useful. Please do get in touch if you have any questions. I know as well that the social media team will be very happy (and very able) to help you. #thatsallfolks

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