Gov 2.0 and #Twitter Finally Meet!

The announcement by Twitter that it was hiring it’s first Washington, DC based employee to focus on the company’s relationships with the Federal Government has pretty much turned the #gov20 search on Twitter into a “hire me” free for all. The company’s CEO, Evan Williams (@ev) has been inundated with tweets, offers, blogs, etc. It started just a few days ago -and thanks to the magnifying message power of Twitter, there are already dozens of blogs, “hire me” campaigns and other social media attempts by individuals to grab this “plum” job.

As I said on Twitter today: I AM NOT APPLYING SO PLEASE TAKE THIS AS ADVICE, NOT AN APPLICATION– from @ideagov:am working on short blog: “Gov 2.0 and #Twitter Finally Meet” – with caveat: I AM NOT APPLYING. #TWITGOV – just “ideas” #gov20 cc @ev” 1:40pm June 9, 2010

It is fascinating to watch, actually. But as a Government 2.0 Innovator, and a former Government Relations Executive for Paramount Pictures, I have some pretty specific observations and ideas, if you will. I got hired at Paramount after working in the Executive Office of the President, under President Clinton and being a traveling advance staffer as well. So I knew plenty of people in Government AND had deep existing relationships. Even then there was a steep learning curve: That of applying technology needs to the Government Relations arena.

1. Twitter needs a Government Relations expert who also is a social media expert. Not the other way around.

2. Twitter has already had issues with the Government, and the media; Iran Election being example #1. In that situation, because they had no one on the ground in Washington, DC last summer (2009) when the Iran Election broke into the open – when there were media reports that the U.S. Government had asked Twitter to continue to provide service in Iran – they had very muddled response. This would not have happened with the right person with deep government ties and social media crisis management in place.

3. True Government Relations is mostly pretty quiet behind the scenes work. 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. Discretion is key to Government Relations.

4. Because of the Giants amongst us like Microsoft, Google, Facebook – Twitter’s entry into the Government space has to be taken carefully. The Giants have armies of lobbyists, lawyers, pr firms, etc. The Twitter person needs to be able to navigate these waters with firm decision making. Time spent getting up to speed will only hurt the company, and its investors like Union Square’s Fred Wilson. This goes back to my first point. Twitter needs to hire someone known in the #Gov20 space – but also known in DC. IN Government. No offense to my peers and friends applying for this job – but it clearly says that they are looking for a DC area person who already has Government experience. That really means connections, access and understanding of the policies and ethics surrounding these changing times.

5. Finally, it is great to see so much enthusiasm for using this opportunity to tell Twitter how this post could be used to change their technology. With all due respect – let the incumbent of that position dictate that. If you are applying to be a Government Relations person, than you really should be showing your depth of contacts, access and ease of penetration into the Federal swamp, as it is. Showing us fancy SEO and blogs is great for marketing. But can you walk Twitter into Federal Agencies? Can you deal with a politically charged White House and House and Senate, not to mention the FCC, FTC, DHS, CIA, FBI, IRS and all the others you will need to?

Follow Alan W. Silberberg: @ideagov on Twitter

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12 thoughts on “Gov 2.0 and #Twitter Finally Meet!

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Gov 2.0 and #Twitter Finally Meet! « IdeaGov -- Topsy.com

  2. Alan, I totally agree with all your points — written like someone who knows how DC works behind the scenes.

    I can’t stress enough how important it is for the person in this position to know two things: people and how politics work.

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  5. My tweet sums up my feelings:

    “Frustrated by Twitter’s focus on *politics* and not on *government*. They say they’re building a grid/utility. Get gov to use it!”

    That’s clearly the bias of someone working with state and local governments, and is not a DC insider. But I do think they’re missing the bigger picture. Wanting more politicians to use Twitter is all fine and dandy, but if they want to truly get the masses to use their service like a utility / a grid (i.e. *to use it without knowing their using it*, then they need someone in their corporation helping governments — state/local/fed — to innovate using their platform.

    They need a “Government Advocate” or a “Fellow” — someone on the ground in the SF HQ who is deeply invested in the ways governments want and need to use their API.

    My $0.02 on this whole brouhaha.

  6. Pingback: #TwitGov: Fresh Links! | Gov 2.0 Radio

  7. Hillary took the words right out of my mouth. Of course, that won’t stop me from reiterating. 😉

    It’s government, not politics, that matters. The person needs to understand what we agencies need, what our missions our, who our audiences are. The political landscape is part of understanding all of that.

    But this isn’t about elections, it’s about getting the job done.

    One example: Twitter’s original terms of service lacked clauses that were problematic for the federal gov’t. That made it much easier for agencies to use it. Then they changed it, throwing many of us for a loop. Having a good person who knows gov’t first, social media second, would help them avoid those kinds of problem.

  8. What great comments, all. Thanks so much. I do feel the Government side of the equation weighs heavier than the tech side if only due to the size and complexity of any Government Relations that Twitter needs to undertake. Jumping in these waters now with someone without the “street cred” to hit the ground running would be a mistake for Twitter, and Government users alike.

  9. Pingback: Interview provides new details on search for Twitter’s government liason | GovTwit

  10. You want to talk about street cred, Alan? How about the company’s perspective (via the Govtwit blog) the position will be based in DC but be involved with global government issues? That’s a load. If every comment above mine is accurate, this person will have enough work on Capitol Hill, let alone DC city government or anything beyond.

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