Seeking opinion on Twitter and Travel advice

I have recently had a conversation with the good people at the FCO about the travel advice service. This is just a discussion right now, hence me asking for some input. There is some appetite for ‘tweeting’ (updating you through Twitter) the latest status in each country covered. The idea being that you would follow fco.gov.uk/pakistan (for example) and find out whether there are any updates that you need to be aware of in that area. These updates could also be streamed by travel websites and mobile services.

In theory this sounds good, but as you know I am not exactly an expert on Twitter (although I am using it more and more each day). I am pretty sure this would be good but I have some concerns about:

1. Customer reach

2. Cost

3. Security

4. Editorial input

5. Value add for the FCO

Many thanks to Paul Caplan (theinternationale) who has already suggested using a lexicon to manage the content being tweeted.

I would appreciate any further advice/suggestion on this particular one as I believe that it would provide a v useful service… but I could be wrong!

Disclaimer (one day I will write a post with no disclaimer): I am not personally making any money out of this, I will point the people I am in discussion with to this conversation in true SM style

14 responses

  1. The starting point has to be plain and simple RSS, with individual feeds for individual countries, not just a global feed for all updates. (It is included in the new FCO website, isn’t it? Isn’t it?)

    Let’s be realistic here. Twitter’s customer reach won’t be fantastic, yet – but there’s no doubt that it’s starting to pick up momentum. As an open technology, it attracts geeks. And after a couple of years of geeking, things inevitably start to happen. We’re seeing it now.

    I’m not a huge fan of those automated ‘New blog post’ updates, pumped into Twitter via a WordPress plugins. But there must be scope for FCO’s new CMS to lift the first sentence of each TA Notice as it gets updated, and pump it into Twitter with a (shortened) URL link to the new posting. (It’s actually remarkably simple to do.)

    Customer reach may not be great, not yet anyway – but so what? If the cost isn’t great either, it all balances out. Besides, I’m sure Mr Miliband would like to be seen at the cutting edge of online communication.

    The FCO, and specifically the Travel Advice team, blazed the trail for web in government back in 1995.* Customer reach was minimal, but it could be done relatively cheaply, and it was the right thing to do. Wouldn’t it be nice to do it all again?

    * Disclosure: er, yeah, I might have had something to do with it.

  2. The problem with pumping links out via Twitter is that it’s fine if you’re reading your Tweets at your computer but not much use if you’re on the tourist trail with just your ol’ handset (ie not your iPhone). You can get the important facts and a phone number into 140 characters and deliver real value.

  3. Agree with Paul, it needs to be self contained within the text.

    In terms of reach, whilst not that many folk are on Twitter now, people will sign up with Twitter just to make use of this service, I would think.

    Interesting point Simon makes about not liking the automatic Twitter blog postings. As I have just blogged myself, they are an amazing source of traffic!

  4. Dave and Paul, the only problem with this is that it would require large amounts of editorial resource to turn the updates into Tweets, and only two senior people at TA to sign off these updates – would not be VFM or VFT. I think the lexicon method Paul originally suggested – having a set amount of terms that can be tweeted is the best option to start with, but think that we could explore the possibilities here.

  5. 1. Customer reach

    Twitter is currently restricted to geeks but it also exposes its data with an API meaning that the info in twitter can also be used in facebook or any other platform.

    The really great thing is that you wont necessarily have to build the app. With the API anyone can do it!

    2. Cost

    Your making use of an existing infrastructure so costs will be low. Your even getting free text message notifications (with daily limits)

    3. Security

    What are you trying to secure?

    4. Editorial input

    What do you want to do here? How about u let anyone contribute tweets about the location? Maybe two twitter accounts, one for public and one with limited contributors.

    Or you could have a view showing all tweets tagged with the country.

    5. Value add for the FCO

    Not my strong point, ultimately the value is added for the user and surely that will result in value for the FCO. If not whats the point?

  6. Isn’t there a problem with having accurate, qualified opinions in this twit feed?

    I can see that in a traffic jam or on a station platform, reporting the fact that a road is blocked or train is late is incredibly useful – http://www.commuterfeed.com/😉

    But when I’m in a foreign, do I really know how to interpret the events I’m seeing? Being on the spot doesn’t make me an expert. You see this problem every night on tv news, where ‘eyewitness reports’ are presented as ‘expert opinion’: they rarely are.

    So, fact based twits are good, opinion based ones could be very bad.

    imho of course😉

  7. Pingback: Her Majesty’s news - on twitter. « extended reach

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