Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Real time feedback for HMRC from Twitter

Over the last couple of weeks of January I noticed a number of Tweets* that reflected real time complaints, frustrations and problems being faced by taxpayers who were trying to satisfy the 31 January online filing deadline.

People were also using Twitter* to share their views about paying tax last month. OK. It wasn't quite 'fascinating' but then again I don't have a vested interest in the tax system - beyond helping people to access specialist tax advice through the Tax Advice Network.

I'm aware too that many accountants and agents encountered their own issues when trying to use the online filing system in January. However few accountants would have had the time or inclination to Tweet about it on Twitter.

In 2009 Twitter is likely to go 'mainstream'. An increasing number of UK celebrities are using it and talking about it on tv, radio and in the wider media which is also covering the story generally eg: the Telegraph last weekend. I suspect that the number of users in the UK is set to explode. (Having said that, I don't expect UK accountants to become advocates of this new micro-blogging phenomenon - and I explained my reasons on this blog post: Twitter is not for accountants)

But, if HMRC seriously want to keep on top of website problems they could monitor Twitter to note the references to 'HMRC, 'taxman', 'Inland Revenue', 'file my tax return', 'tax office', 'pay my tax' and the like. It's not particularly complicated and could be done using a service such as Tweet Scan or TweetBeep.

(I doubt HMRC would be thanked if they started to 'follow' anyone on Twitter! ("HMRC is now following you" is not something anyone would want to hear!)

In 2008/09, as in previous years, HMRC was reliant on professional bodies like the ICAEW Tax Faculty and CIOT to pass on details of problems as and when these were reported by members. This is a much longer-winded process than it needs to be in future.

I suggest that someone within HMRC is deputed to explore this new phenomenon and how it could be used to identify and resolve website issues faster than has ever been possible in the past. Monitoring tax related tweets will also provide a unique insight into how real people relate to the taxman.

(For the same reason all large corporates, public figures and brands may wish to monitor what is being said about them in the Twitterverse. Many people within the twitter community would suggest that there are good reasons to go further than this and to engage with people who Tweet about big businesses - but this is all well beyond the scope of this TaxBuzz blog)

If you’re on Twitter you can tell your followers about this by clicking here to: Tweet a link to this blog post. You can send the tweet, which contains a shortened link or you can edit it before sending it.
And you can follow me @bookmarklee and @TaxAdviceNet depending on your interest.


*Twitter is a micro blogging service that encourages users to simply Tweet their answers to the question - "What are you doing right now?" The potential uses of Twitter go a lot wider than this and there are many related websites and services that make it easier to use and to gain benefits from so doing.

1 comment:

  1. I have had a number of good chats recently about how large organisations might take advantage of social media, including Twitter.

    Do they "follow" to keep in touch, or can they truly "engage"? Is it possible for a profile user to represent a large organisations point of view?