Twitter etiquette for corporates

It’s been amazing to watch news of Downing Street’s new Twitter account spreading round the planet. Reaction on blogs and Twitter itself has been a combination of ‘awesome!’, ‘boring!’ and ‘validates Twitter as a proper comms channel’.

But it poses an interesting question. Should a corporate channel like /downingstreet be following other people, or is it purely a one-way service? So far, I can’t decide.

Let’s be realistic: Gordon Brown doesn’t want to know what your cat had for breakfast, and deep down, you all know that. But it’s the done thing on Twitter: everyone follows everyone else. It might make people feel loved, if they see their picture embedded into the No10 page’s sidebar. It doesn’t take much effort to add people, and hey – nobody’s forcing you to read it.

Looking at it coldly then, I can’t help feeling it’s a pointless token gesture. But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – look at what’s happening across the Atlantic. Barack Obama has 19,000 followers and almost the same number of ‘following’ – each of whom gets to see their picture on his profile. Hillary Clinton takes the ‘follow no-one’ approach, and has a mere 2,400 followers. And which campaign gets plaudits for its voter engagement?

Maybe that’s the point. Twitter represents a pretty deep level of ‘buy in’ to a person or a thing, much deeper than a blog subscription or email signup. You’re asking to know the minutiae on a real-time basis. By definition, it’s a more personal, touchy-feely environment. Maybe it’s the touchy-feely criteria which should matter most.

What do the rest of you think?

‘Gov 2.0’ in US presidential campaigning

I’m grateful to Jeff Jarvis for a detailed post on ‘government 2.0’ (although it isn’t a term he used, nor should he have). He points to two recent proposals from the Democrat candidates for the US presidency.

I hadn’t heard Hillary Clinton’s suggestion, back in January, that government should actually be required to blog:

I want to have as much information about the way our government operates on the Internet so the people who pay for it, the taxpayers of America, can see that. I want to be sure that, you know, we actually have like agency blogs. I want people in all the government agencies to be communicating with people, you know, because for me, we’re now in an era–which didn’t exist before–where you can have instant access to information, and I want to see my government be more transparent.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama told an audience at Google:

I’ll put government data online in universally accessible formats. I’ll let citizens track federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and lobbyist contacts. I’ll let you participate in government forums, ask questions in real time, offer suggestions that will be reviewed before decisions are made, and let you comment on legislation before it is signed. And to ensure that every government agency is meeting 21st century standards, I’ll appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer.

The concept of universally accessible data formats will/would be music to some people’s ears, of course.