Companies Office signs up to Twitter, Facebook

The Companies Office is embracing Web 2.0 technologies to get information out to the public. The government agency has been on Facebook for a while, and from the start of this year it is also on the online message service Twitter.

“We live almost exclusively on the internet now,” says Justin Hygate, Companies Office group manager. “Companies are formed online and we interact with our customers using our website.

“Things like Facebook and Twitter seems a logical place for us to be,” he says.

A lot of the business people the Companies Office deals with are already in those online communities, especially the younger entrepreneurs, says Hygate. The online, 24/7 channels provide a way for them to connect with the agency anytime it suits them, he says.

The Companies Office contact centre in Christchurch aims to assist people using the online technologies, he says. Staff are monitoring the Facebook and Twitter activity and can jump in and respond quickly, he says.

Because the systems are already in place, the new online channels do not add any costs, he says.

So far, the Companies Office has used Twitter as a way to introduce new services; to give people information on what they need to provide when dealing with the agency; to post links, statistics and job vacancies.

Hygate welcomes feedback from users. “We need to ensure our site is intuitive and works well,” he says.

The organisation is also planning to introduce a blog later this year.

The online plunge is a result of listening to the “bright young things” in Hygate’s team, who live in the online social networking world. The organisation was open to conversations with them about the benefits an online presence could offer, he says.

The Companies Office technology platform is built by Auckland-based FMIT. In addition, Hygate has a web-team of six, which manages the open source Plone content management system.

The organisation is also about to release the next version of its platform for mobile devices. The new release, which has specific iPhone, Microsoft Mobile and Blackberry versions, has enhanced search capabilities. At the moment, the Companies Office is getting around 9,000 searches a month on the mobile device, says Hygate.

Another mobile service that has been successful is the TXTB4UBUY Service, which is getting around 2,600 searches per month. Users can text a number plate to the system, which searches the personal property security register to see whether or not the vehicle has a security over it, says Hygate. This can come in handy when considering buying a car. The service costs $1 per request.

The Companies office is also in the middle of building a brand new computer system, called Enterprise, which will allow an even more “exciting experience” for customers, says Hygate. The system, planned to go live in October, will feature a personalised portal for users.

As Computerworld went to print, the Companies Office on Twitter had 34 followers and had posted 12 updates.

The Companies Office isn’t the only local organisation on Twitter. At press time, Vodafone New Zealand had 467 followers and 803 updates, along with Telecom, with 317 followers and 113 updates.

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