Twitter initially confused a lot of folks. For one, it was seen as limited in function, and second, its exact value or purpose was not understood by many. But new uses for the social media channel pop up all the time. As a means of getting a simple message across instantly to a large, rapt audience, it’s hard to beat Twitter. This is why many large companies have started using the platform to Tweet job openings -- and some governments are starting to do the same.

Jonathan Reichental, CIO of Palo Alto, Calif., is among the government leaders using their Twitter  audience to advertise new job openings in their agencies. “Is Twitter a good channel for advertising government jobs?” Reichental asked. “The answer is absolutely yes, in a very positive way.”

Reichental estimated that his department is the only one in his city that uses Twitter to advertise jobs, but pointed out that it has several advantages. From a marketing standpoint, he said, it's a great way to get the message out to their targeted recipients. Reichental has more than 3,000 Twitter followers, and many of them are technologists and people in government who would be interested in the advertised positions for either themselves or people they know.

Getting information into the right hands quickly is of huge utility in any marketing effort, he said, but even better is the fact that Twitter is free. “It doesn’t cost us anything, and in an organization that money is one of your most important constraints, you’re looking for opportunity like that,” he pointed out.

The city also uses email, executive recruiters, job boards, other social media platforms like LinkedIn,  and a human resources platform called Neogov, Reichental said, but Twitter is a great supplement to those efforts for one more reason, which is that Twitter shares his agency’s story with the public.

One of the reasons people follow him on Twitter, he said, is that they’re interested in his team’s projects, strategies and events. Looking through Reichental’s Twitter feed tells a story of what is going on with technology in his community, and can also be seen as a reflection of industry trends.

“For example, when the city of Palo Alto decided, under my leadership, that we were going to make security one of our priorities, we had to hire the right talent for it, so we had to hire an information security manager,” Reichental explained. When they advertised that job posting on Twitter, people were able to see that the city was indeed making security a priority, and they could also extend that idea to a broader view and see that perhaps government and technology communities in general are headed toward a similar security trend.

Another official using Twitter to advertise job openings is Adrian Farley, CIO for the Office of the Attorney General at the California Department of Justice. Farley says that for him, Twitter is a great way to streamline some of his work.

“It’s really a way to tap into my social network quickly,” he said. “People don’t want to be spammed on email, so they opt-in to social networks like Twitter, and if they want to see the message, it’s available. I’ve had some people pass along to people in their social networks who were looking for jobs in certain technology areas. So, it’s really a way to connect to not just the people I know, but to people they know as well.”

He has in the past used Facebook, and Farley's office continues to use traditional approaches to job recruitment like email and job boards, but an approach through Twitter is in many ways less invasive to people and reaches a more willing audience, he said. “People can look at a tweet quickly, whereas a traditional email approach requires more of their mindspace, if you will,” he added.

Like Reichental, Farley cited transparency as another benefit of using Twitter to post new job openings. It shows the public what they are up to, he said, while also opening up the search to a wider group of people. As for Farley’s recent ads, Twitter is proving to be useful, he said.

“I didn’t have huge expectations that we’d get a lot of candidates right off the bat because people don’t necessarily think of it as a place for that type of recruitment," he said, "but I’ve heard from about five people so far that have been referred through other people I know."

Colin Wood Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog. He can be reached at cwood@govtech.com and on Google+.