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Twitter® announced a new feature in October—Twitter polls. Although polls are not a new concept, the capabilities being offered by Twitter polls are. Previously, users tweeted a question and tracked replies, tallied hashtags or counted votes made via a retweet or favorite. The Twitter polls feature allows users to create two-choice polls, embed them in their tweets, and gather votes with a simple click or tap. Polls are live for 24 hours, and although the results can be reviewed publicly, voter information remains private.Twitter Project Manager Todd Sherman says, “For poll creators, it’s a new way to engage with Twitter’s massive audience and understand exactly what people think … [f]or those participating, it’s a very easy way to make your voice heard.”This feature may have the potential to enhance communication between the public sector and its constituents. Here are three ways government can use Twitter polls to engage and connect with its community members:

  • Predict the future: It’s an election year. Is there any time more appropriate than now to use polls? Whether you’re looking to predict who will come out on top of the next debate or which issues constituents are most interested in discussing, polls can help!
  • Request feedback: Is your agency rolling out a new program or service, or making changes to a current one? Find out whether people in your community would take advantage of a program or whether enhancements are needed. Ask, for instance, “Would you consider using an online chat feature in lieu of a phone call?” Or “Would you participate in a food co-op that supports local farmers?”
  • Opinions and research: Perhaps you’re looking to tackle a problem in your community. Or you need to determine if a problem exists in the first place. A poll can help uncover issues and potential solutions. Ask, for instance,“Do you think there’s a need for a stop sign at the intersection of X and Y street?” Or “Would you use bus transportation, if available, to get to the ABC district?”

It’s important to remember that Twitter polls are a form of engagement, so once you begin, you should make polling a habit, share the results of your polls and thank your Twitter audience for its participation. Austin, Tex., city spokesperson Alicia Dean says, “ … [O]nce you start something, you have to be able to manage it effectively. You can’t start a conversation and then not be there.”

Although votes are not public, results are. Keep the conversation going on Twitter and other social channels. Provide updates about how you’ve used information from polls to tackle problems in your community—for example, share photos of city street improvements or newly named zoo animals. Or give progress updates on budget issues and construction projects. Make sure the news spreads far and wide by asking followers to retweet and share the good you’re doing. Reward those who do with a prize drawing for participation. Credit card ice scrapers, reflectors or jar openers make nice thank-you gifts.

Keep in mind that your polls are only as accurate as your audience numbers. If you don’t yet have a broad Twitter audience, you’ll want to recruit new followers. Include your Twitter handle on mailings and brochures, and welcome new followers to join you. Encourage new followers by holding monthly drawings for Hashtag Stress Relievers or earbud wraps.

Twitter polls can be a great way to connect and engage community members. Try one or all of these ideas and watch the results roll in.

Sherman, Todd. “Introducing Twitter Polls.” Twitter Blogs. N.p., 21 Oct. 2015. Web. Retrieved 12 Nov. 2015.

Barrett, Brian. “Your Twitter Feed Is About to Be Flooded With Polls.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 21 Oct. 2015. Web. Retrieved 12 Nov. 2015.

Read, Ash. “The Complete Guide to New Twitter Polls: What They Are, How They Work and 9 Ways to Use Them.” Business 2 Community. N.p., 23 Oct. 2015. Web. Retrieved 12 Nov. 2015.

Eidam, Eyagon. “Twitter’s New Polling Feature May Be Useful for Governments.” Governing.com. N.p., 26 Oct. 2015. Web. Retrieved 12 Nov. 2015.

 

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