Twitter time

 "Dude, the OECD tweets? That's freaking awesome". So said a response to the OECD's new Twitter account, perhaps surprised that the OECD, known for its long in-depth reports, also posts on Twitter. The 140 characters Twitter allows is a format that suits the OECD well, says Alison Benney of media relations. "Not only are our statistics and news releases easy to abbreviate and post with a link, but it doesn't take much to converse about them, or to tap our experts for more in-depth follow-up," she said. The OECD created its Twitter account in March 2009, and has over 800 followers. This adds to a social media toolbox that includes Facebook, YouTube and Flickr. OECD Observer articles have been bookmarked for a range of social media since 2007.

The OECD attracts followers for its economics tweets, but when data on cell-phone pricing were released, they provoked some debate over their measurements, which the authors of the OECD report were able to respond to quickly online.

Recent OECD "tweets", as messages on Twitter are endearingly called, have included links to health statistics: "Digs & drugs: High-priced hospitals & branded meds partially why US health care costs so high. See OECD pdf" and quotes from the OECD secretary-general: "Nothing less than a revolution" says OECD's Gurría re: progress on bank secrecy & tax evasion. 2009 report out today".

The OECD's growing Twitter following of journalists, NGOs, policymakers and business types may be well off the millions major stars draw - Martha Stewart, the US cookery and home-maker guru, has 1.5 million followers for instance - but OECD tweets still have followers and are often re-tweeted, particularly when it comes to interesting factoids, such as one saying that "a T-shirt costs 2,700 litres of water to produce", from a recent OECD Insights book on sustainable development.

In the end, dialogue is the driving force behind Twitter, whether it's discussing how much a T-shirt really costs, or indeed how to decorate one.

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