Under billionaire Elon Musk’s new ownership of Twitter, the conversation about the social media platform’s future and the way it plans to verify users has been changing rapidly, but school communications leaders are waiting to see what ultimately unfolds before making any changes to their social media strategy.
Musk had planned to sell users Twitter verification — with a blue checkmark next to their name — at $8 per month. Verification previously required an ID check of sorts through Twitter.
Inevitably, when the blue checkmark-for-sale became available, swaths of people impersonated major brands and figures on the app, creating havoc and leading Twitter to pause the new subscription offer on Friday.
However, Musk hinted on Sunday that the platform’s verification process will soon “enable organizations to identify which other Twitter accounts are actually associated with them.”
A school or school district’s presence on social media is an important tool to keep their communities informed, said Mellissa Braham, associate director of the National School Public Relations Association.
Twitter certainly isn’t the only social media platform out there, she said, adding that a majority of NSPRA member schools also use YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
“Ultimately, as a school system, you have to look at what the data tells you about where your families are,” Braham said. “We don’t advocate, necessarily, one particular platform.”
So far, Braham said she has not seen any indication of a “mass exodus” among schools from Twitter. NSPRA members have, however, expressed concerns over the recent changes at Twitter, she said.
“I think it’s still really early for districts to make decisions along those lines, because like everybody else, we’re kind of watching to see what’s happening,” Braham said.
Before a district decides to leave Twitter or stay, Braham said its leaders need to reflect on their local education priorities and goals regarding family and community engagement. Then, they should use data to determine which tools best meet those needs, she said.
In October, NSPRA and the Consortium for School Networking released a survey showing a quarter of school districts that applied for verification were rejected in the last two years across various social media platforms.
Verification has been seen as a potential tool to help districts report and handle cyberbullying. More than half of districts surveyed — 59% — said they had noticed social media postings that harass, intimidate or bully their students.
Additionally, Twitter at the time told NSPRA it was working on a process to recognize K-12 institutions when verifying their official social media accounts. Braham said those talks are still ongoing.
Overall, Braham said, what’s important is that social media users have a way to identify and trust a source of information.
“We want a way for people in the school community — whether that’s your taxpayers or your parents or your employees — to know that they can trust the source of the information of the local schools,” Braham said.
Even as Twitter has been raising concerns among users with the change to verification as well as massive layoffs and a Musk warning that the company could go bankrupt, Facebook’s parent company Meta announced a huge wave of layoffs, too.
“Social media platforms … they’re going to ebb and flow economically,” Braham said. “As an association, as K-12 education systems, we need to be constantly aware of what’s changing and how we can communicate on social media and how we can also make sure there’s accurate information out there.”