After Elon Musk purchased Twitter, people who run school district social media accounts started to wonder what the platform's reported changes might mean for schools.
Members of the CESO Communications team agreed that the answer to this question depends on what you want out of Twitter. Even before the company changed hands, it was important to evaluate whether Twitter was the right tool to meet your communication goals.
We work with several districts that actively engage with staff members about professional learning on Twitter. For these districts, it might be worth staying on the platform as long as things remain productive. We know of other districts who have seen a sharp increase in the number of trolls who are flooding them with nasty comments. These districts might determine that other platforms are more useful.
CESO Communications developed guiding questions and in-depth analysis for you to consider as you weigh whether Twitter is the right tool for you:
What are your goals?
• Target audience
Consider whether this platform targets the people you want to reach. According to research from the Pew Research Center conducted last year, many more people use Facebook and YouTube than Twitter, and most traffic on Twitter comes from a few high-frequency users. Most of the research we’ve seen from individual school districts supports this – stakeholders don’t usually get their district news from Twitter. If you aren’t already surveying your audiences about their communication preferences, now is a good time to start.
Some people are considering alternate social media sites, but many of these are very early in their development, so your target audiences might not be on them. Consider whether a social media tool is the best way to achieve your intended goal. For example, if you want to reach local reporters and editors who use Twitter frequently, could you have just as much success by emailing or texting them?
A few of your stakeholders have accounts on TikTok, Pinterest or SnapChat. While the benefit of using social media tools is meeting our audiences where they are, we need to carefully consider which platforms are most worth our limited time. Twitter is no different, even though it is one of the most commonly used in school PR.
• Success metrics
Social media provides easy metrics you can use to measure success. But the companies that own these sites provide analytics and create algorithms that incentivize you to keep your stakeholders on their site as long as possible in order to sell more ads for them. While social media engagement can help make sure people see your important messages, in the end, your real measures of success are things like the level of support for your district, the number of students enrolling in your schools, and the number of candidates applying for your job openings.
Is Twitter's controversial nature suited to your needs?
Every district has its reasons for using a social media platform. Which needs align with your current and planned usage?
Need 1: Sharing information
Unlike other platforms, Twitter is best for dialogue, not just posting information. This is why your content might get great engagement on Facebook but minimal reaction on Twitter.
Need 2: Sparking conversation
Consider whether you want to invest time in moderating discussions on Twitter, or if you would rather do that on a platform that allows for more constructive feedback, like Crowdicity, ThoughtExchange or Bang the Table.
Need 3: Joining conversation
If all your teachers are active on Twitter, this could be a useful tool for professional development discussions.
Are the changes affecting you?
• Imitation: not always flattering
One of the recent changes to Twitter is allowing users to pay for verification instead of using it to ensure that people and institutions are who they say they are. Just after NSPRA unveiled a new initiative to get better protections against people impersonating schools on social media, Twitter has made this very easy to do. On the other hand, there might still be some use in maintaining a presence to help people identify the real account by seeing its history.
• Rise of the trolls
Twitter fired most of its content moderators who prevented trolls from posting hateful attacks and less-than-constructive feedback. Consider whether you are seeing an increase in this kind of traffic.
Consider the cost of affiliation with Twitter:
• Relationships and perceptions
Consider the political climate in your community. Some people are demanding that the organizations that serve them denounce Twitter’s recent decisions by stepping away. Others would protest if the district did so. Some say they cannot support Twitter’s recent decisions, while others say they are not yet willing to give up the platform Twitter provided for connecting people.
• Advertising spend
Although it is rare for schools and districts to advertise on Twitter, for those who do, now is a time to consider whether the platform demonstrates your commitment to the values your district has adopted. Actually spending money on Twitter is a stronger message of support than just maintaining a presence there.
Bottom line: There are a lot of things to balance as you try to determine whether Twitter is the right tool for your schools. The CESO team hopes our guiding questions give you a framework to make the best decision for your community.