As a government entity, you may have joined Twitter years ago, using it to provide valuable customer experiences to your constituents and communities. But what if Twitter is no longer a reliable way to interact with your “customers”?
Since Elon Musk took over Twitter in 2022, the company has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride filled with mass layoffs, failed product rollouts, and fears about the platform’s future. Many users—including some of the government clients we work with—have experienced outages and technical glitches with the platform, but have had a difficult time receiving support to correct the issues. For local governments that rely on Twitter for law enforcement alerts, public transportation updates, and to hear directly from residents about service requests, this has been especially problematic.
There is also a lack of moderation, a rise in hate speech, and concerns about how data is handled. All of this has left many Twitter users and organizations to ask themselves, “What do we do now?”
The majority of Americans who use Twitter have taken a break from the platform in the past year. Social media managers and communications professionals across industries are also reconsidering how they use—or don’t use—Twitter. For government agencies, the pitfalls and benefits may be even more pronounced as issues surrounding the platform continue to evolve.
During this tumultuous time, we recommend taking a hard look at your Twitter strategy. Assess your goals for the platform, re-evaluate why you’re there, and decide if it still makes sense to actively use your Twitter account.
How to evaluate what your government agency should do with Twitter
Whether you use Twitter every day to engage with constituents or only tweet occasionally to promote resources, this is a moment to evaluate why you’re on Twitter and if it’s still bringing you value.
1. Address key questions
- What are our communications and social media goals? Does Twitter help us achieve those?
- Are there better ways to connect with our audiences? Are our audiences still using Twitter?
- What are the benefits and risks of continuing to use Twitter?
- Are there other social media platforms or channels that we can use instead to meet our outreach goals?
- What are other similar government agencies doing with their Twitter presence?
- Do we have the bandwidth and resources to more closely monitor Twitter to mitigate the rise in fraud and hate speech?
2. Look at your data
Evaluate your Twitter metrics to see how much the recent changes at Twitter have impacted the number of followers you have, how often people see your content, and how engaged users are. If you notice that many of your posts aren’t seen by anyone and you no longer have meaningful interactions with your audiences, maybe it’s no longer worth engaging with the platform. However, if engagement is up, or you’re getting real questions or comments from real people, it may be worth continuing to build your interactions.
How to navigate Twitter more effectively
Many nonprofit organizations and government agencies will decide to remain on Twitter simply because it’s a way to reach a large number of people all at once. If you decide that it’s worth your time and effort to maintain your Twitter account, here are some tips to follow as well as ways you may want to tweak your tactics to fit the current state.
Make it clear that your Twitter account is the official one
With the changes to Twitter’s verified checkmarks, more fraudulent accounts are popping up. Be sure to provide a way for people to double-check that the account they’re looking at is really yours, and not an imposter. For example:
- The City of New York pinned a tweet explaining that this was their official account, and providing a link to their .gov website where people could verify the handle.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau added a section to their website’s Contact Us page with links to each of their official social media accounts.
Depending on the type of government agency you are, you may also want to use your social media accounts to educate audiences on how to spot fake accounts.
Monitor your social media channels closely to spot and mitigate issues as soon as they arise
With the rise in fake accounts, hate speech, and technical issues on the platform, you may be tempted to ignore what’s going on with your Twitter account. But it’s actually important to be more vigilant now about what’s going on with your mentions, comments, and direct messages. If you aren’t already doing so, schedule a way to regularly check in on your account.
- Is someone leaving spammy comments on all your posts? Delete those.
- Are people tagging you and asking if something is legitimate? Answer those.
- Are you seeing fraudulent information being shared about your agency and/or its services? Send an official post to correct the false information.
Overall, if you notice something negative is happening, alert your followers and audiences immediately about imposter accounts or fraudulent tweets.
Reconsider how often you post to Twitter and direct your followers elsewhere
Organizations can choose to publish less frequently or stop publishing new content entirely. Let followers know if you’re planning to post less often.
New York City’s Metro Transportation Authority (MTA) recently announced that MTA will no longer post alerts to Twitter and shared other channels that riders can use for reliable transit information—including their website, text alerts, and a newsletter. And while they’ll no longer be offering real-time service updates on their Twitter accounts, MTA still plans to monitor the accounts and respond to messages on Twitter.
If you’ve decided that it’s no longer strategically valuable for your organization to distribute information via your Twitter account, it’s important to consider what will take its place. If you stop posting to Twitter, can your followers get the same information or customer experience from you somewhere else? Do you want your followers to sign up for an email list? Do you want them to follow you on LinkedIn or Facebook instead? Don’t simply abandon your Twitter followers; think through how to bring as many of your followers with you as possible, e.g., pin a tweet and update your Twitter bio to explain that you are no longer posting to the account as of a certain date, and direct users to where they can interact with you instead.
Hold onto your Twitter handle
If your agency is no longer going to use Twitter, should you just leave the platform entirely? While you may decide to deactivate or delete your profile, there are benefits to remaining on the site, even if your account is mostly dormant. Twitter gives users the option to deactivate their account for 30 days, which allows you to keep your handle, but means no one can see your tweets or find your profile. However, if you fail to reactivate during the 30-day window, your account will be permanently deleted.
Deleting your Twitter account poses the risk of someone registering under your former username and impersonating you. The ability for someone to inexpensively purchase verification exacerbates this risk, as users on the platform might be more likely to believe the imposter is the actual organization.
For this reason, even if you’ve officially stopped posting to your Twitter account, we strongly recommend keeping the account active to prevent anyone from using your Twitter handle and claiming to be you.
Continue to use Twitter for social listening and research
During this tumultuous time, it may make strategic sense to focus more or solely on social listening and sentiment tracking to follow any conversations that involve your agency’s name and brand. And again, if false or negative information about your agency is being shared on Twitter, come up with a plan to mitigate it.
You can also continue to use Twitter as a way to interact with and keep up-to-date on important stakeholders if the platform is still central to their own social media strategies. For example, monitoring partner agencies or relevant organizations and public figures via Twitter lists can help you stay on top of what’s going on in your field. Twitter can also be a useful place for media monitoring and seeing what prominent journalists and thought leaders are saying about your agency.
Communicate about your new Twitter strategy
If you do ultimately decide to make a change, develop internal and external messaging that informs your stakeholders of your decision to step away from Twitter.
- After auditing what other organizations were doing and deciding that Twitter no longer aligned with their shifting digital strategy, the Barr Foundation sent an internal memo to leadership, emailed their staff, and published a blog post explaining their rationale for leaving Twitter. They decided to focus on other platforms and directed their followers to those channels. They also trained their staff on how to better utilize LinkedIn to continue building their thought leadership on social media.
Government agencies can similarly explain to internal and external stakeholders their plans for shifting their Twitter strategy.
Stay focused on the bigger picture
While the news about Twitter continues to evolve daily, remember that Twitter is just one channel in your wider communications strategy. Use it if it’s helping you reach your goals, and think about how to pivot elsewhere if it’s not.