When I set up our corporate twitter @NAOorguk account in May 2009 it was a bit under the radar, well more accurately no where near any radar.
At the time I was somewhat worried about the implications of using Twitter – as we are a bit of a risk averse organisation.
So to see if the world would end when we started tweeting I decided to send out some messages on my personal account. I gulped a bit and hovered over the send button before I pressed it. Thankfully there were no flashes of lightening, or thunder, so I breathed a sigh of relief.
After I had done this a few times I thought, ok be brave now, send out the same thing on the corporate account. Yes – the one that no one knows that I have set up. So with some bigger gulps and deep breaths I pressed the button again. Imagine my relief when the earth did not open and swallow me. Phew.
From these slightly scary beginings this Twitter account has become integral to our communications. For example we now list it on the title pages of items such as our major outputs the Value for Money reports.
This account has been ticking over nicely and gradually accumulating followers. Clearly it will never be as big as some of the major departments but then our audience will never be as big.
However I was keen to push things along a bit and was pondering how to do this. I came up with a crafty plan which as usual had some risks attached.
I had been using Topsy for a while to check out a few things. It is a very handy tool to see who has mentioned an organisation. So I thought why not try following with our Twitter account the people who actually mention the NAO?
I could see some risks to this. Some people might think its a bit spooky being followed by an organisation with the words National, Audit and Office in the title. They are not exactly the most friendly words are they? How would I choose who to follow? What if they are bonkers, pressure groups or politicans?
Anyway it seemed a good idea to me so as usual I started slowly and tested the water. Somewhat to my surprise it has really worked.
Every few days I have a look at recent mentions and spend 10-15 minutes following, if possible, the people with the largest followings and especially those marked ‘influential’. I generally avoid the more ‘controversial’ accounts.
Quite quickly over the end of 2011 and early 2012 our followers had jumped up by several hundred. This is one of the benefits of users following back which I had banked upon. Of course I hope people do this as they can see the advantages to them.
The benefits of this process is that we are identifying audiences who have indicated their own interest in what the NAO does as we only follow those specifically mention the NAO. We did have one person who found it odd we were following them but the ever friendly @puffles2010 sent them a message saying that we were a nice team. Another person said ‘you know when you have arrived on the UK audit scene when the NAO starts following you’ which still makes me smile.
I think that we are helping these users since as the NAO generally follows up most topics in some way so we are starting to make it easier for those interested in us to get our information more directly and quicker. Also as we look at these users we start to become more familiar with our audiences and how they are made up.
I should add that I adjusted our Twitter policy to say that we aim to follow and engage with people interested in the NAO’s work.