Critics rap Twitter's federal plans

Twitter's search for its first Washington-based government liaison announced this week has prompted a flurry of tweets and blog posts by Gov. 2.0 community members offering advice and comments, but skeptics are mobilizing, too.

Twitter’s search for its first Washington-based government liaison has prompted a flurry of tweets and blog posts by Gov. 2.0 community members offering advice and comments, but skeptics are mobilizing, too.

Some are questioning whether Twitter is coming late to the government table, and if the company understands how Washington works.

“Twitter Inc. needs a dose of reality here,” Mark Drapeau, a new media leader who recently co-chaired the Gov 2.0 Expo, wrote on his blog on June 9. “This appears like a company out of touch, hopping on a bandwagon.” Drapeau asserts that many government executives have been using Twitter regularly and don’t necessarily need assistance; he also suggests Twitter does not understand D.C.

“If I were Twitter, I'd get a better feel for Washington, and then rewrite and advertise this six months from now,” Drapeau wrote.

Another blogger suggests that what would help Twitter most is someone who puts government relations first and social media second.

“True government relations is mostly pretty quiet behind-the-scenes work,” Alan Silberberg, a Web 2.0 leader, wrote at Huffington Post. “It is not usually done through the amplified medium of social media – unless that is a specific aspect to a specific initiative. Writing blogs about how great you are does not translate into you being able to handle a myriad of personal relationships and levels of government with discretion.”

The comments are coming in response to Twitter’s posting on its Web site on June 8 that it is looking to hire its first D.C.-based employee who will be the point of contact for policy-makers, political organizations, and government agencies and officials who are “looking to get the most out of Twitter on both strategic and highly tactical levels,” the job listing states.

“If you are successful, the world will be a better place because policy-makers will have closer connections with their constituents and will be sharing more information with them,” the Twitter job listing states.

Sean Garrett, Twitter vice president of communications, added more detail in an interview with GovTwit blogger Steve Lunceford on June 10. “We are looking for someone who can deal with the technical aspects of using Twitter, but at the same time be comfortable walking into a congressional or government office and speaking to those audiences,” Garrett said in the interview. The job will be focused not just on federal but also on state and local governments, he added.

Lunceford also asked Garrett about the critical comments regarding Twitter being out of touch. “We believe Twitter will be better off having a direct dialogue with public officials who use our service. And I would say that yes, the 'Twitter 101' conversations are still important,” Garrett responded.

Twitter’s job listing has ricocheted around the Web, sparking multiple tweets, blog postings and retweets, mostly positive but a few skeptical. A few even posted direct marketing pitches trying to get hired for the position. “I live on Twitter,” wrote Shaun Dakin on his Web page appeal to get hired.

Web 2.0 blogger John Moore called the Twitter liaison position “a dream job” that “will give you a lot of bang for the buck.” However, “gaining traction at the government level will require time, money, and more than a little patience,” Moore wrote on his blog. He suggested that Twitter work on developing a behind-the-firewall application so that government leaders could be assured that their postings would be government-only.

Andrew Wilson, Web content manager for the Health and Human Services Department, offered 10 suggestions for the Twitter D.C. liaison in a post on his personal blog. He advised paying attention to requirements for people with disabilities; engaging with the Library of Congress on archiving tweets; establishing a public directory; creating a process to quickly verify the legitimacy of government officials’ Twitter accounts; and developing metrics to measure Twitter utilization within government.

“Please engage, in a transparent manner as possible, with the federal, state and local employees that are using these tools to get their input, ideas and concerns,” Wilson wrote.