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Twitter Feed Is Fed’s Latest Effort to Reach Out to Public

US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke
Ben Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve Chairman. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

First there were town hall meetings, then press conferences. Now comes @federalreserve, Ben S. Bernanke’s latest effort to reach out to the public, this time via Twitter.

The Federal Reserve said it will post messages about its press releases, speeches, testimony and reports to Congress -- even its weekly balance sheet. It will also post “educational frequently asked questions,” according to a statement released today in Washington.

“It allows the Fed to communicate in a more frictionless manner and in real time,” said Phil Pearlman, New York-based executive editor of StockTwits Inc., an online investing community for traders and investors. “If everyone is talking about you, then you have to be there as part of that conversation, and it’s harder and harder not to be there as that conversation grows.”

The feed is part of the Fed’s effort to improve public understanding of its policies and how it functions. Bernanke started holding quarterly press conferences last year and is making appearances ranging from speaking at a military base in Texas to teaching a four-part lecture series at George Washington University later this month.

Treasury, SEC

The Fed’s followers surged to more than 1,500 in the hour after the statement announcing the channel at 9 a.m. Washington time and to almost 5,000 by 12:45 p.m. Most regional Fed banks already have Twitter feeds, including San Francisco, Philadelphia and Boston.

San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. is a microblogging service that lets its more than 100 million users send 140-character messages.

“Twitter is great for breaking news because it goes to people fast, but I have a hard time believing that the Fed is going to break news on it,” said Jamie Lissette, founder of the Hammerstone Group, a Westport, Connecticut-based operator of online discussion forums for investors.

“Will we be getting tweets at 3 a.m. saying ‘Falling asleep, concerned about inflation?’” he said.

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