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Do Government Agencies Need a Twitter Tsar?

UK looking to hire high-level “director of digital.”

Has the time come for government agencies to start hiring individuals to lead social media efforts? The prime minister of the United Kingdom thinks so. “The Cabinet Office is looking for ‘an exceptional candidate to fill the new and exciting role of executive director of digital to lead the implementation of the Coalition Government's new digital strategy,’” according to The Register.

Dubbed a “Twitter Tsar” by UK media – to the irritation of some in the government – the position will offer £142,500 in salary, a rate comparable to the pay of Prime Minister David Cameron.

According to The Telegraph, whoever is hired will be tasked with running Directgov, “a website that supplies consumers with information about tax and benefits, as well as providing details of consumers’ rights when it comes to dealing with utility companies, landlords or local councils.” 

In addition, the Daily Mail reports that the “executive director will be responsible for more than 100 staff and for saving at least £6 million from Directgov’s annual budget.”

Despite the moniker administered by British papers, the move to create such a position reflects a small but growing shift in attitudes about social media among government officials. In January, New York City appointed 27-year-old Rachel Sterne as its first chief digital officer. Sterne’s first task in her new role is to create a 90-day report detailing the city’s online strategies. To create the report, Sterne told Government Technology, she’s “begun to gather feedback from city agencies and citizens through both face-to-face meetings and online platforms such as Twitter, Quora, Tumblr and Facebook” and “will continue to work with stakeholders and gather metrics to provide a comprehensive look at what the city is currently doing and opportunities to build on these achievements.”

Emma Barnett, digital media editor of The Telegraph, thinks a “Twitter Tsar” is a position needed not just in government but in every company.

“But every business ought to have one and the government is no exception – with huge costs to save and an entire nation to efficiently communicate with,” she wrote in a Telegraph article. Admittedly smaller businesses probably will not be able to hire someone solely to look after digital – but someone in every company should be tasked with making the digital output of a business an official part of their brief.”

What do you think? Do government agencies need someone to oversee activities in social media? Share your thoughts in our comment section.



Lauren Katims previously served as a staff writer and contributing writer for Government Technology magazine.