Government Catches On to Twitter

The Board of Equalization (BOE) has signed up for Twitter. Who cares? Right?

Well, if you pay taxes (and that's supposed to be pretty much all of us) it promises to provide the kind of information you need to know so you don't miss deadlines or sales or new information about rule changes or emergency assistance.

And since Twitter limits the number of characters, it makes what can turn out to be a bunch of convoluted eye-crossing information a bit more palatable.

"It's a way to give out useful bottom line information in short statements. Tax information, for example, can be complex," says Anita Gore, a spokesperson for the BOE.

Or it can offer up the latest on the wildfires like the one burning in Kern County via @Cal_Fire. The small bits of information like "400 acres burning near Old West Ranch" is just enough to let you decide if you want to search for more details.

The BOE is coming late to Twitter, but it's better than never. You will find dozens of other government agencies using Twitter already. Another good government Twitter address is @Cal_EDD . That's the Employment Development Department which tweets where job workshops are.

"Government agencies have been slowly adapting social media over the past two years. It's becoming crucial if not an integral communication strategy for any government agency," says Jennifer Van Grove, Mashable's associate editor and NBCSanDiego contributor.

Agencies can take it even further beyond Twitter and Facebook with location-based apps like Foursquare she says. "Chicago is a creative example of using Foursquare to promote city engagement," adds Van Grove.

Visitors can "check-in" at over 60 eligible city wide locations and earn Chicago-themed "badges" at everything from parks to historic places.  

"It's a new experience, a new way to look at something," points out Van Grove.

Chicago's government agencies are getting in on the Foursquare action by offering a check-in to the assessor's office, but as you can imagine the check-ins to the restaurants and theaters are a lot more popular. But at least cities are trying.

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