3 Tips For Jamaican Government Officials On Twitter
Let me just get right to it, as politely as I can (Part 2 will focus on Jamaican government agencies and ministries):
Be Engaging. You don’t have to respond to everything but acknowledge feedback and respond appropriately. Do not be like Andrew Holness or Lisa Hanna who tweet only links to photo ops or Facebook notes. If even some inspirational quotes, comments on news articles, or an invitation or two for comments on policy, please engage. Better still, during or after big speeches — from whatever side — it’s a good idea to tweet about what’s being said in a manner that’s meant to help the consuming public understand and be informed. Much as I don’t agree with his views, Dr. Dayton Campbell is not a bad example for being an engaging member of the Government of Jamaica on Twitter. Julian Jay Robinson is good at tweeting a mix of information about his responsibilities as well as general comments about what’s going on in the world. Floyd Green also does a good job of communicating information about his organization’s activities and his daily life, as well as commentary on the fast-moving happenings in Jamaica.
Be Appropriate. As you engage, have a sense of presence and of the moment. Well, also tweet as if you have sense. For example, earlier this year the aforementioned Dr. Campbell decided to tweet about his opposition to homosexuality during an important address to Jamaica by Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller and Finance Minister Peter Phillips:
Everyone is quite aware that I am not gay nor do I support that lifestyle this is based on biblical guidance.—
Dr. Dayton Campbell (@DrCampbellPNP) February 12, 2013
Dr. Campbell claims that he was responding to an earlier tweet sent to him; fine, he was engaging his Twitter followers. Good. But. How is your opinion homosexuality an appropriate or necessary topic to tweet about or discuss on a public forum like Twitter while the country’s leader — his party’s leader — and the nation’s finance and economic manager and IMF negotiator addressed the nation about its dire straits and the measures being implemented to address them? Either you don’t understand that there’s a time and place or you’re engaging in distraction tactics. Neither is acceptable. So yes, there must be a balance of engagement and tweeting as if you have sense and some sort of judgment. Speaking of which…
It is also not a good idea to tweet about how you’re going to “shell dung” an official trip, or
I don’t care that Minister Crawford takes a position on Mr. Myrie’s culpability; he’s entitled to his opinion. But I do care that he’s a representative of the Government of Jamaica and I hope that he remembers that, and that his tweets can be construed — fairly or not — as an indication of the Government of Jamaica’s position on Mr. Myrie’s culpability. Though many Jamaicans don’t like to admit it, Mr. Myrie is now a convicted felon and until something changes with the verdict or sentencing and in light of what we know about the case, a Government official might be better served by expressing guarded support. Perhaps something like: support for a fair and speedy appeals process (or retrial, based on this week’s court action) for Mr. Myrie + commendation for Mr. Myrie’s talent + simply wishing him well.
Also, Babylon will do what?
This is Minister Crawford’s latest bit of inappropriateness; it’s as if he’s so caught up in being “real” that he declines to think through what he tweets. I’m not saying that he should put on airs and graces or not be himself but…It’s been so disappointing and so horribly and embarrassingly wrong. Lots of people seem to like his work in his constituency, especially given the opposition he faced at the beginning of his term, and sure there can be allowances for different communication styles but really, his tweets increasingly indicate that he lacks good judgment and a sense of presence. As a young and eager politician I sincerely wish him well so I continue to hope that he communicates that he’s young, eager, and smart versus just displaying early signs of “youthful exuberance.” Aim for substance over style.
I do not care if you use standard English or patwa/patois but I do care that you tweet sensibly.
Be Mindful. This is related to being appropriate. Twitter is wide open. You’re not just tweeting for or to Jamaicans so be careful how your tweets betray party or government policy…or of how your tweets can affect government policy. You think Twitter doesn’t matter? See Anthony Weiner and what it cost him. You think foreign governments or news agencies (local, regional, and international) aren’t watching your tweets, saving your tweets, and analyzing your tweets? Think again and act accordingly. Your fast fingers are providing a real-time near indelible record of you and of your Government’s activity. Think about what you tweet and how you tweet it…
See the hard and very public lesson that Mayor Brown Burke learned when she accused All Angles and Direct of bias
I’m glad that she recognized the problem the tweet created and apologized; it’s better than some of her colleagues have done.
The discussions last night on all angles and direct needed to have some balance. And tis is not an attack on the media. Just my views.—
Angela Brown (@brownburke) May 02, 2013
Remember too that in Twitter land retweets can be endorsements, and that disclaimers won’t absolve you of liability.
I’m not sure whether the Government of Jamaica has a social media policy but I encourage them to develop one and to implement it. They wouldn’t be the first government to do it and likely it can supplement other official communication policy. Include everything from what Twitter bios should include (position, constituency represented, contact information, etc…) to the what kinds of media and information can be posted. Keep it updated. Let MPs and Government Ministers know that the policy will be strictly enforced. The overarching goal should be effective, engaging, and open communication. The policy should have at its core the idea that the Members of Parliament and Government Ministers are meant to use their social media presence to provide quality service, that of keeping the Jamaican public informed and engaged.
It’s not about you; it’s about how you present yourself and represent your country. You’re a public servant, act like it.