PA Treasury goes viral with new Twitter account

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
The profile page for the Pennsylvania Treasury's Twitter account, @PATreasury, with Treasurer Joe Torsella pictured. The account has grown steadily in popularity since its debut in June.

In the saturated market of online content creation and viral Twitter accounts, breaking through the noise and gaining a following is no easy task.

But in fewer than three months, the Pennsylvania Treasury, a state agency, has launched a new account, gained 5,300 followers and managed to get people talking about issues such as Wall Street corruption, the student debt crisis and savings accounts for Pennsylvanians dependent on disability benefits.

It turns out the secret is humor, offbeat news commentary and plenty of sports tweets.

"Going into this, we didn’t know what to expect," said Ashley Matthews, Treasury spokeswoman, in an email Friday. "The response we’ve seen has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re very thankful to the people who have followed and interacted with us."

Since the account launched in June, with the support of Treasurer Joe Torsella, traffic on the Pennsylvania Treasury's official website has increased 250%, Matthews said.

The goal of the account is to bring Pennsylvanian's into the conversation with a joke or a shared interest and educate followers about the Treasury's programs and services, she said.

But another goal, she said, is to hear from as many Pennsylvanians as possible about what they care about, what they'd like to see happen at the Treasury and what's impacting their lives.

"This is as much about hearing back from people as it is talking to them," Matthews said.

The @PATreasury account is a team effort, with everyone contributing to content creation, strategic planning and the job of actually posting the tweets. Matthews said keeping the account anonymous allows it to have its own voice.

Going viral: Earlier this week, a video of a "fish tube" — an invention that safely transports fish and eels from one side of a dam to the other — went viral, and whoever was managing the account that day took advantage of the moment.

"A fish tube, but for throwing private equity swindlers out of Pennsylvania and into the ocean," the account Tweeted on Aug. 13.

The tweet gained 5,000 likes and more than 660 retweets.

After a video showing a "fish tube" invention that transports fish and eels safely over dams went viral this week, the @PATreasury account used the opportunity to talk about private equity firms. The tweet itself went viral, garnering 5,000 likes and 665 retweets.

Then there's the Aug. 1 tweet in which the account showed screenshots comparing the prices of COBRA continuing health insurance with the cost of buying an actual reptile.

"FOLKS! We have to talk about this. I’ve discovered that the cost of COBRA coverage is more than the cost of an actual cobra. Pls RT for more award-winning content," the tweet read.

People often feel as if their governments aren't listening to them because government agencies tend to talk at their constituents, instead of talking with them, Matthews said.

In this @PATreasury Tweet from Aug. 1, the account compares the cost of COBRA continuing health coverage with the cost of a real-life pet cobra.

But Torsella's message has always been about building community and a sense of common purpose among Pennsylvanians, Matthews said.

"Treasurer Torsella is supportive of reaching Pennsylvanians in a new, creative way," she said. "He has placed a lot of trust in the team behind this and, so far, has been very pleased with the outcome."

To see more tweets and learn what all the fuss is about, follow the Pennsylvania Treasury by searching @PATreasury on Twitter.

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