Posted in Social Media

Corporate Twitter Accounts – a little guide

Starting out
Once you have signed up for an account make sure you know how it all works. There’s nothing worse than having an account with no activity.

@ Replies

@karenjeal – hello thanks for your tweet.
(this one will be seen by me because the @name is at the beginning of the tweet)

Hello @karenjeal – thanks for your tweet.
(this one will reach a far wider audience just by putting the @name further along the tweet)

Direct Messages (DM) – you need to be following each other to be able to DM someone. The DM is also only made up of 140 characters. DM should be used mainly for getting someones contact details or further, more sensitive, info to be able to help them.

Hashtags – these need to be used to get topics trending. Also be aware people will use hashtags to express how ever they are feeling and they can be whatever they want to say.

Retweets – you can just retweet someone but clicking the double arrow button under their tweet but it would be better to construct your own tweet from scratch. Make sure you include the peron’s @name that you’re retweeting. An example:

RT: @graveshambc Put 25 February in your diary. is celebrating find out more

Modified tweets – This is like a retweet but where you may have had to modify it slightly. Just stick MT: at the beginning similar to the above.

The tweet itself – This needs to be 140 characters (with spaces) so be word savvy and be aware that if you include a picture that it will take up some of your word count.

Be engaging
Invite people to comment on things, send in pictures, nominate things. It gets people interested and talking! Don’t just use Twitter as an ad space. It’ll get boring and you’ll just lose followers. Use it to talk to people and find interesting content.

Be very careful. Don’t make them too long and make them relate to something. Here’s an example #LocalGovDigital #localgov or #CleanandGreen. Be careful not to use something that might have something inappropriate attached to it.

Also if you are going to use more than one word make sure that it doesn’t make up other words. There was a hashtag for Susan Boyle’s new album party. Her promo people used #susanalbumparty – was harmless but look what it actually spells out!

Short URLs
Within your tweet you need to save on characters where possible. So if you have to add a URL you can shorten it. There are a number of tools out there to do this –, Tiny URL or It’s really useful in getting a long URL into a short tweet! And some of them give you analytics too so you can see how many people are clicking through.

Who you’re following
Make sure you’re not following too many people. You want to make sure that those you follow will be useful and are influential. No-one is going to follow someone who is following thousands of people but who only has 10 followers themselves. You really want to be following the people who will create interesting content, so good people to retweet.

It’s impossible for anyone to read every tweet as it’s just too fast paced. So you can tweet the same/similar tweets throughout different times of the day to target different audiences.

You must make sure that even if you’re not posting tweets that you are still checking and monitoring the account for people who have tweeted you. It’s very important that you respond to replies or mentions that you get. If someone is saying something positive go back and acknowledge that even if it’s just to say thank you. If someone is being negative, unless they are asking a specific question that you can answer then the best thing to do is just ignore it. If you have a customer service enquiry that is getting out of hand take it offline – but make sure you say it’s been taken offline.

Think abut its value
Think about what you want to get from using social media and who you want to follow and connect with. Don’t just set up an account because you that’s what you feel you need to do. There has to be a reason and it needs to meet an outcome. Think in terms of creating conversations, interacting with people in the community and finding interesting things to retweet.

Sense the tone
Make sure you sense the tone. If you don’t think you should be tweeting it then don’t. Don’t be caught out and make a mistake. If you have any doubt then just don’t do it.

If you have a corporate account it’s good practice to have at least two members of the team knowing the password and for security purposes it should be changed frequently or whenever anyone leaves.

Accounts must be updated regularly – at least once a day. You’ll need to reply quickly too, even if it’s just a holding tweet to say you’re looking into something. Make sure all your tweets are different and don’t spam people too much with the same topic.

Times to tweet
Good times of the day to tweet are weekends and between 1pm and 3pm weekdays.
Worst times of the day to tweet are 8pm-8am.

Campaigns and goals
If you are running a specific campaign try and keep track of what’s going on daily. Set goals and have clear outcomes of what you want to achieve from the campaign by using Twitter.  

  • If you want to measure awareness then you’ll want to be measuring reach.
  • If you want to measure comment then you’ll want to be measuring retweets and replies.
  • If you want to measure traffic then it’ll be better to measure URL shares.
  • Get help to monitor specific hashtags or terms.
Posted in Digital

Pick of the Digital Blogs

Blogging isn’t new, but blogging in a local gov environment, for me, is relatively new. And even more so is blogging about digital in local gov.

We’re all trying to push people online, save money, tighten up our websites and streamline services as much as possible and having done a bit of research here are my best pick of the digital blogs around. In no particular order:

#1 – Gravesham – Digital Gravesham
I’m biased on this one because I set it up but it’s well worth a look, even in its early state. We’re documenting everything we’re doing from start to finish.

#2 – Shropshire – Project WIP
This is a fantastic example of bringing a human element to local government work. It not only is going through the work they’re doing but is adding details of the team and how they’re working together. It’s also worth noting that Shropshire is doing lots of new innovative work too. Trying out Whatsapp being just one awesome example.

#3 – Nottinghamshire – Digital First
This is a good blog that is aimed at achieving Digital First. They are sharing the work they do and want to gain feedback on that work.

#4 – Lambeth – Digital Lambeth
This blog, again, is a log of all the work that was done during the website redesign and is now being used to highlight other parts of the Digital Team’s work. The blog was previously called Made in Lambeth.

#5 – Devon – Re:work Devon
I don’t know which blog came first but this one in particular is one that I found first off all a few years ago and has been a really great insight into doing a blog of this kind well.

#6 – Camden – Camden’s Website Redesign Project
This blog is very detailed and packed full of info and resources. Like Project WIP this also goes into detail of team members which again, brings a very human element to the work their doing, rather than just being ‘The Council’.

#7 – Monmouthshire – Digital Monmouthshire
This one hasn’t been updated for a while but is still worth a little mention as Monmouthshire, in particular Jo Goodwin, are doing some really good things!

Posted in Digital

Accessible to all

In the lead up to Christmas I’m going to be doing a series of posts of thoughts and doodles. Sort of like a 12 posts of Christmas or a Christmas advent collection. So my first one is about accessibility. 

Too often we forget that not everyone has the same experience as us when using websites.

It might be something simple like they don’t have the same experience because they have a different phone and the website isn’t geared up to be mobile ready. Or they can’t see it properly because of the browser they are using, and the site you’ve built doesn’t work right on that browser.

It could be that someone who is blind, partially sighted or deaf is coming to the site and they’re unable to use it. Or it could even be as sinister as a user being colour blind and they are unable to differentiate between colours on the site.

All of these things are important for council websites, because residents will vary so much. The site is there to serve a very wide ranging community. So what things do we need to be thinking about to get to grips with accessibility.

Here’s my list and also some useful links that will help you get it spot on.

Content editors. You need to think about:

    • What you are writing and who your target audience is.
    • Don’t refer to top right, bottom left etc. If the site is responsive then the content blocks on the pages move round depending on how you look at it. Instead refer to the heading for that section.
    • Don’t use click here. This can be really frustrating for screen reader users who may tab through links.
    • Wherever possible try to make link text as similar as possible to the page you are linking to, for example don’t put link text ‘contact us’, if the page you are sending people to has a page title of ‘visit us’! The same with links to external websites. Make sure you write BBC website, not
    • It’s always good to write out all email addresses
    • Make headings as useful as possible, front loading the heading with the keyword wherever possible.
    • Screen readers search on terms, and would more likely be searching for the term ‘contact’ rather than ‘getting’.
    • Make sure you put alt text on images where needed. If they don’t need alt text because they are purely decoration, they will still need a null alt text.
    • Make sure your images are accessible. In other words don’t use a poster that has been shrunk to size and the wording is no longer legible.

Accessibility things that are really super important:

    • You should offer a text resizing option and don’t just rely on the browser doing this job.
    • High contrast should also be offered. Many partially sighted people will really rely on this to see your content.
    • Think about listening to web content, using things like browsealoud.
    • Translation options should be made available by embedding Google translate somewhere on the site, usually the header or footer.
    • What colours are you using? These must pass contrast tests.
    • Is there a site map?

Browsers and operating systems:

  • If you want your site responsive then do testing on phones and tablets. Particularly
    in IE 8, 9, 10, 11 Safari, Firefox and Chrome.
  • You should also make a massive effort to test content and functionality on smartphones and tablets.
    • On an iPhone and iPad/mini iPad
    • On an Android phone and tablet
    • On a Windows Phone and Tablet.

And here are my useful links:

#1 – this one is called Wave and it’s a Web Evaluation Tool. You just put your web address in and it will tell you how many accessibility errors there are in your site.

#2 – this one is good for checking how good your content is and how easy it is to understand. It’s called Online Utility. 

#3 – here are the full Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. It’s a pretty long but if you’re in doubt then take a look at this.

#4 – this one is really good for colours. Simply pop your colours into the Web Aim Colour Contrast Checker and it will tell you how compliant, if at all, your site is.

#5 – Courtesy of the University of Nottingham this is a SMOG calculator. It’s pretty good. You just pop your text in and it’ll give you a score. Aim for a score of about 16 and you should be OK.

#6 – And my final pick is the Website Usability Dashboard this one has been developed by the very talented Simon Gray (@simonjgray). It lists lots of councils and it allows you to run tests on your own and others’ sites and then gives you an average score.
Got any other accessibility tips? Tweet my @karenjeal

Posted in Digital

Keep it brief


So it’s called a Project Brief, but people sometimes forget to do just that… keep it brief but with as much detail as possible to prevent too many further questions. Here’s a little guide to things you need to think about when doing your next website project brief.

What’s the project about?
What are your goals and priorities – what’s the website going to achieve?
What is your current situation when it comes to web presence – what have you already got? Try and explain what CMS/platforms you already use and have to give a bit of context.
Who is your audience? How will they use the site?
Include wireframes and what functions you want. Try and give as much information about branding, colours, fonts, do you need interactive maps, do you need a search function built in. Images – will you provide them or will you need stock ones. Will you require advertising on the site? Try and give an idea on the navigation you’re looking for. Provide some content with it if you can. Think about social media and how that is incorporated into the site.
Make the site accessible and responsive as standard. Most people are using sites on their mobiles and tablets nowadays.
Who is hosting the site? What do you want the domain name to be?
When it comes to the quote – make sure you ask for it to be broken down into different elements so that if it comes in over budget you can pick and mix what you want. Find out if there is any annual ongoing costs and find out what the daily rate is if the deadline is missed.
Make sure you say what you’re deadline is and keep at it.

Posted in Social Media

Tweeting in local gov

High 5
As part of my doodling I have decided to start doing a little feature called a ‘High 5 Guide…’ where I give my top 5 tips on a subject. This one is on tweeting in local government. Tweeting is now second nature to most and has become part of ‘business as usual’ in the team you work in.

So here are my 5 top tips that will help make life a little more interesting when tweeting.

#1 – make sure you’re having conversations.
Don’t just let your residents/customers come to you with a moan or a groan – go out to them – ask questions, find out what they’re up to, interact and make sure you really talk to them. It’s also a good idea to introduce yourself every day, like – Hi – it’s Karen here and I’ll be on hand to take your queries today. Other accounts like TfL and Southeastern do it and it works really well. At Lambeth Council we have been testing this out and believe it or not it has made a massive difference in the tone that a person will speak to you. It’s more friendly, even when people have negative things to say.

#2 Use pictures
Pictures really help illustrate what you’re saying and make for much more interesting retweeting. It will really help your tweet come to life and make sure you also link to interesting and cool things. Not always a press release or something similar. Be inventive.

#3 Take advantage of your influencers
There will be many people connected with the council who have a lot of influence in your community. Get them tweeting and having the conversations. Councillors for example will know the issues and can help influence people. Some of them will also have a very high number of followers, so if you retweet from the corporate account too then it doubles the reach!

#4 Connect with people
I’d say don’t be afraid to use your personal account to make contacts and network. This not only means journalists but also people in the community who also carry a lot of influence. Start following people of interest and be curious! If you see a story in the local/national press – tweet the journalist – again – start up a conversation. Likewise if you need to defend something it’s much quicker to do it via a tweet than to send an email. It’s quick and to the point.

#5 Keep up-to-date
Be on Twitter as much as you can and as much will allow to make sure you keep in the know, do the same with blog sites. It will really help you construct more interesting tweets than just want the council is doing the whole time, it will allow you to build up a reputation for offering insightful tweets.

Find me on Twitter – @karenjeal