This is meant to be a guideline for staff who wish to use Twitter to tweet on their own behalf (rather then the official museum account). I am not sure if I have gone overboard, would this just scare anyone off using Twitter, rather then giving them guidance.
Please let me know if I have missed anything?
Twitter guidelines for museum staff
One of the defining features of Twitter is that it is very much a person to person network, and this holds both dangers and benefits for an organisation like a museum.
To project the right image for the museum it is important to consider how you use Twitter, for example, it could reflect badly on the organisation if someone who identified themselves as a member of staff made political remarks, talked about ‘going out to get wrecked’ or used inappropriate language amongst tweets that referenced their work.
Whilst we would like to see people from across the organisation use twitter to engage with the public and to talk about the work that they do, we would suggest that this needs to be done as a member of staff and as such you should consider having separate personal and professional Twitter accounts.
If you do set up a Twitter account for professional use, then it is important to identify yourself as working for the museum to avoid any confusion about your point of view. For example, it could seem dishonest to the community on Twitter if you posted comments about how good a new exhibition looked without identifying yourself as a member of staff.
The easiest way to show your link to the museum is to mention this in your profile.
What should I write about?
Your starting point should be to listen to what others are talking about on Twitter and to think about how you can best contribute to the conversations which are taking place on the social network.
Twitter is an eco-system of thousands of niche conversations and as a museum we are perfectly positioned to benefit from this by engaging with people who have a passion for the subjects we cover.
Use the Twitter search facility to find these interesting conversations and follow and engage with individuals who are saying interesting things.
As well as listening and responding to others, you will want to write about your own work within the museum. Museums are fascinating places and you will find that a lot of people are interested in what goes on behind the scenes; just be careful not to announce anything confidential before it is in the public domain.
As well as writing tweets, you may also find Twitpic.com a useful service. This allows you to share pictures on Twitter and with such visual collections, this can really add something special to your tweets.
Responding to the public
Twitter is a person to person network, and your part of using this social media platform is speaking to the public. They might reply to something that you write on Twitter or could ask you a question.
It is important to reply to these messages in the same friendly and informative manner that you would if they came up to you in the museum.
If somebody has a criticism about an exhibition or the museum in general, inform them that you appreciate their comment and have passed this along to the relevant person in the museum, and then forward the comment to ——— so that they can deal with it in line with your complaints procedure.
Tone of Voice
Getting the right tone of voice for your tweets is essential when joining Twitter, this website has a large and passionate user-base and anyone stumbling in to this space and posting in an inappropriate way will quickly be ridiculed.
Twitter has a friendly and informal style. This is a person to person network and you should write your tweets to suit this, rather then posting anything that sounds too ‘corporate’ or ‘PR’.
Looking at how more experienced users are writing tweets on the website is often a good way to learn what works and what seems inappropriate.
One of the most popular features of Twitter is the retweet, this is essentially forwarding a message that someone else has written to your followers. When selecting something to retweet, consider how appropriate it is for someone who is linked with the museum to be associated with the original tweet and whether it may appear to be an endorsement of third party content.
You may wish to consider adding your own comment to anything that you choose to retweet, making it clear why you are forwarding it.
While it is best practice to follow those who choose to follow you on Twitter back, it is important that you look at the profile of each person you are considering following and consider whether it is appropriate for the museum to have a link with this individual.
Once you have started to follow an individual, you should keep reviewing what they are posting to Twitter and stop following them if you think that their tweets are inappropriate.
Once you have made a commitment to use Twitter, you should try and tweet at least once a day. In reality you’ll probably find it quite addictive.
If you find that Twitter isn’t for you, then consider handing over your account to a colleague rather then abandoning it, this is also the best course of action if you are leaving the museum.
If you can not find an appropriate person to take over from you, then you should delete your account, rather then leaving an abandoned account online.
When it is okay to pretend to be someone else
Whilst transparency and honesty are key to the way that we should act on social networks, there is one exception to the rule.
Some museums have made good use of Twitter to bring historic figures back from the dead, and to write tweets as either a famous person or a fictional character in order to educate the public about a certain period of time or an event from history.
This kind of activity can be very effective, but needs to be well planned with consideration given to how you could respond to the public if they ask questions, or try and engage this person in conversation.