Government 2.0 Movement Seemingly Passes By Twitter, Inc.

A recent story, titled "Twitter to hire White House liaison to help policymakers 'tweet more effectively'" reported that Twitter, Inc. of California plans to hire its first employee outside headquarters – in Washington, DC.  Great idea, except that the position seems like something useful from one or two years ago.
From the Telegraph UK:

The company, which has yet to employ anyone outside of San Francisco, is looking for someone to be the “closest point of contact with a variety of important people and organisations looking to get the most out of Twitter on both strategic and highly tactical levels”, according to the job advert.

The ‘Government Liaison’ will be responsible for helping Twitter understand what it can do “to better serve candidates and policymakers across party and geographical lines”. They will also “support policymakers use of Twitter to help them communicate and interact with their constituents and the world” and help set the culture and approach of a “fledgling public policy department”.

Twitter, Inc. needs a dose of reality here. Besides people like me who were using Twitter and other tools in and near government two years ago and more, there are now countless consultants working inside the Beltway to develop and carry out plans for using the service in combination with other tools for diverse government missions ranging for public affairs to military recruiting to national security. And while savvy senior leaders may certainly meet with someone from Twitter, they certainly don't really need Twitter's help to figure out how to use it for diplomatic relations; sorry, the State Department is better at using new media in a holistic manner than any group I know.

This appears like a company out of touch, hopping on a bandwagon. Good luck with this initiative Twitter Inc., but in all honesty, one person in DC to "advise policymakers on tactical issues" is trivial, and the help is really not needed. (Ironically, the leaders of Twitter are not the best at tactically using Twitter to help their company communicate with stakeholders … I'd rather see someone like Guy Kawasaki advising government public affairs on creatively communicating.) On the policy side with regard to telecommunications or privacy or related issues, it is not obvious that Twitter is as big of a player as say, Facebook. I'm curious to see who gets this job and how they make the most of it, but if I were Twitter, I'd get a better feel for Washington DC and then rewrite and advertise this six months from now.
What Twitter Inc. line employees really need to do is show up and participate and get some ground truth. I recently attended the wonderful Gov 2.0 Expo (in… wait for it… DC) and Personal Democracy Forum (in Manhattan, not exactly a hardship assignment) events, where people from Twitter could have mixed and mingled and listened and learned. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think anyone from Twitter attended. They must have been busy writing an uninformed job description from a San Francisco ivory tower.
Twitter's chairman Jack Dorsey is perhaps the single employee most in touch with Washington, DC.  As I type this he's in town, at least partly for a political fundraiser last night that used his innovative new device, Square (side note: I think Square is revolutionary and totally underappreciated as yet), and he among other things has participated in some work with the State Department and spoke at the Government 2.0 Summit last September. If nothing else, his advice might be more valuable at headquarters than people think.

Posted via email from Mark’s Cheeky Posterous

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This post was written by:

Mark Drapeau - who has written 225 posts on Dr. Mark D. Drapeau.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Mark Aaron Murnahan Says:

    Id does seem a bit odd that Twitter is jumping on the social media consulting bandwagon. They may do better to stop showing us whales and listen first.

    Some friends twisted my arm to write a book in 2009 to help people understand Twitter. When I started the book, I was seeing tremendous response to anything I tweeted. It was very interactive and I would see over 500 clicks and a few dozen retweets for even the most bland content I would share. By the time I finished the 140 page book (about a month later) Twitter had gone deaf and was overrun by what I call “the blue pill brigade”. It lost a lot of the founding users’ attention after Twitter decided to pull a Facebook move by not listening.

    The point is that if Twitter wants to make improvements, it would probably be best to listen before they preach. It is much harder to fix something than to keep it from breaking in the first place.

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