I have had my reservations about the merits of Twitter as a marketing tool for schools for several years, but over the last few months it has become apparent that Twitter is not the place for schools to market themselves. As you may have seen in the press, Elon Musk purchased Twitter at the end of October and since then has created chaos by firing over half of the staff at Twitter HQ1 and reinstating banned accounts under his ‘freedom of speech’ initiative2. Musk’s decision to axe half of his staff has meant that the Content Moderation Team have been working a skeleton staff3 and undesirable content (and people) has been making its way on to people’s Twitter feeds4. Although this doesn’t directly pose a threat to a school profile, it could mean that users who are on Twitter to keep up to date with school news could be subjected to such content.
Another concern I have had since the so-called ‘Twitter 2.0’ is the introduction of the paid-for Blue Checkmark. As you may be aware, there used to be a way for celebrities and brands to identify themselves as legitimate by applying for verification and getting a blue tick in their profile. This was designed to stop parody accounts from causing reputational damage to celebrities and brands. Now, anyone can purchase a blue tick for their account for just $8 per month. This has caused huge problems for international brands, as parody accounts pretending to be the legitimate business have tweeted inappropriate comments or images5 (source 5 is worth a read, just for entertainment). My concern is that this could become similar to what we have seen on TikTok with nefarious people posting damaging content on a verified page set up to look like the school’s account.
Besides the above, there is also the lack of proper engagement on school’s Twitter feeds. It has been suggested that a tweet has a life of just 24 minutes6 7. This means that, unlike Facebook and Instagram, if a member of a school’s community was to log on to Twitter 30 minutes after the initial tweet, the likelihood is that they won’t see the tweet on their thread. This may explain why school Twitter engagement is so low.
When there is engagement, it is often from staff members of schools/trusts or department accounts from schools. This can be viewed from two perspectives; the first being that it’s a waste of everyone’s time to be digitally 'slapping each other on the back', especially when it’s only a handful of people in a closed circle discussing the topic. The other view is that it’s a brilliant way for colleagues to celebrate one another’s achievements. Either way, it is generally not a useful way of putting content in front of your target audience. Perhaps a better way of expressing these celebratory events would be to do so on LinkedIn. Microsoft’s social network is a professional form of social media akin to Facebook circa 2011. It’s not as whizzy as its contemporaries, but it is a safe place to share good-news stories.
Over the last month I have been experimenting with the frequency and time of posting on Twitter to see if engagement will improve with a specific combination. I have found that engagement sits between 0% and 1.6% of followers no matter when a tweet is published.
I think this is due to several reasons; despite some of the schools having a very healthy following, there has been a mass-migration away from Twitter8, meaning that although a school may have a four-figure following, many of these accounts are ‘ghost’ accounts where the user has logged off, but not deleted their account. According to Hootsuite9, only 0.2% of Twitter users only use Twitter, therefore it’s highly unlikely that a member of your community is relying solely on your Twitter feed to find out about the school. Another reason for low engagement could be that schools are posting once a day, at the most, and this tweet gets lost within a plethora of other content. And another reason is that the content being posted from a school is usually not controversial enough to ignite a back and forth between Twitter users.
When I first started putting this together, it was my intention to persuade you that Twitter is terrible, and you should close your school's accounts immediately. However, over the last month there have been some interesting news threads about the future of Twitter – rumours about some very advanced AI that will moderate content faster and better than a human10 and Elon Musk has confirmed that to receive the verified checkmark, users will need to go through a lengthy verification process. So, I’m suggesting that schools take a break from Twitter for the moment – let the dust settle around Elon Musk’s vision and focus on marketing to your communities on Facebook and Instagram. After all, this is where a vast majority of your engagement comes from.
3 https://eu.usatoday.com/story/tech/2022/11/15/elon-musk-cuts-twitter-content-moderation-staff/10706732002/ 4 https://apnews.com/article/elon-musk-technology-business-government-and-politics- 2907d382db132cfd7446152b9309992c 5 https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/stefficao/twitter-blue-verified-parody-accounts 6 https://scottgraffius.com/blog/files/social-2022-2.html 7 It is worth noting that this research also suggests that Facebook posts have a lifespan of only one hour. We have looked at the schools with which we work and our data suggests that tweets have lifespans on 14-28 minutes and Facebook posts 20-30 hours.