Government Shutdown Hushed Federal Twitter Accounts

It’s one thing when the local dry cleaner closes for a week due to a family vacation.

But shutting down the federal government because the politicians can’t play nice in the sandbox?

Thankfully, the boys in Washington discovered that elusive common ground; hence, the U.S. government is once again open for business.

Playing my humble role as a servant for the People, I conducted an audit – relax, no taxpayers’ money involved – on federal Twitter accounts. Specifically, I wanted to find out if the Feds pulled the plug on their Twitter accounts during the shutdown, how they handled it and if any federal accounts continued to turn the 140-bit storytelling crank during the shutdown.

Everyone should be happy to hear that virtually all federal Twitter accounts went dark during the shutdown. Figuring the average  cost to operate a government Twitter account runs around $1K per day – approval process for a tweet can be brutal – it’s great to see this social media spoke did not make a difficult financial situation worse.

Turning to the specifics, our audit turned up many government entities that communicated “no tweets during the shutdown” in their actual profile. I hadn’t considered using the profile copy this way.

US Secret Service Twitter account


Energy Department Twitter account


Commerce Twitter account


Department of Transportation Twitter account

Are we seeing a federal government that’s more in tune with the sensitivities of the American people?

I ask the question because a number of federal Twitter accounts used the “S” word in expressing their genuine regret that their tweets were about to stop due to the shutdown.

NCES Twitter account


CDC Twitter account


Food Safety Twitter account

Yes, it appears that someone distributed tweet copy to all the federal agencies suggesting that they use the “we’re sorry” narrative. Personally, I find this reassuring that our Federal government is finding more points of leverage across varied entities.

As for the federal entities that continued tweeting during shutdown, I discovered two, though it’s certainly not a comprehensive list (did not review the hundreds of accounts that exist).

Department of Defense Twitter account


US Currency Twitter account

Given the bad buys operate 24×7, I can understand how the DoD rationalized keeping all communication channels open for business.

And apparently the folks who print money deemed that newly designed $100 bill crucial information for the public.

As the federal Twitter accounts ramp up today, if you come across anything insightful or just plain weird by all means chime in.

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2 Comments so far

  1. Chris October 17th, 2013 12:52 pm

    Curious: Do you have a source for the $1k per day to run a government Twitter account statistic? Seems high to me.

  2. hoffman October 17th, 2013 1:03 pm

    Hi Chris,

    I was hoping no one would ask that question.

    It’s just back-of-the-envelope math that goes something like this-

    Between the research, writing the tweet, securing approval and posting, I figure each tweet takes 1.5 hours of manpower. At four tweets per day, that’s six hours at an average cost of $150 per hour (higher if the work involves an outside agency) which gets us to $900. Add in monitoring the Twitter account as well as interacting with folks who direct tweets directly to the account and you can actually end up above the $1K number. While some might quibble with the $150 per hour number, even if you have a junior (cheaper) person writing the tweets, you still end up with senior people touching the process during the review/management cycle.

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