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#RIPTwitter? The Future of Twitter and How It Impacts Government

The audience on Twitter is too large to ignore and, despite the outcry, they aren’t leaving anytime soon.

by / February 19, 2016

It’s not often that the most talked about issue on a social network is the impending doom of said social network, but that’s exactly what happened on Feb. 5, 2016 when Twitter went abuzz with #RIPTwitter. The hashtag coupled with a falling stock price — TWTR is down 60 percent year-over-year at the time of this writing — raises some interesting questions: What exactly is happening to Twitter? And how will the fallout impact government?

Why the doom and gloom for Twitter?

Two reasons. First, the stock price is taking a hit because investors are disappointed with the lack of growth in monthly active users. Second, users are concerned about potential changes to the platform. Jack Dorsey, the original founder of Twitter and current CEO, has publicly alluded to feature changes that seemingly depart from the platform's core premise.

One such change is the possibility of posting tweets longer than 140 characters. More recently, Dorsey suggested that Twitter might algorithmically prioritize tweets displayed in user timelines, effectively putting a kink in everyone’s firehose of information.

Should government agencies be concerned?

The short answer is no, but we should recognize that social networks will continue to evolve and that we must continually tweak our strategy to maximize benefit. Twitter currently has more than 300 million monthly active users. Despite the struggles in the stock market, Twitter will not be “resting in peace” anytime soon.

Furthermore, the fact that Twitter is willing to experiment with the platform is a good sign. We are continuing to see the emergence of niche platforms followed by consolidation in which the top tier social networks integrate those new capabilities. Twitter’s acquisition of Periscope, which brought live video broadcasting to Twitter, is a perfect example. And while we might all be quick to #RIPTwitter, here’s the good news: None of the controversial platform changes have actually been implemented! Twitter might just be market-testing its ideas. As Jack Dorsey puts it:

What’s your advice for government agencies using Twitter?

  1. Stay the course. Twitter provides an undeniably effective platform for efficiently disseminating information. Review any recent crisis in government and it’s clear that something like Twitter needs to exist.
  2. Understand your role. It’s important to recognize that Twitter caters to two different audiences: a core group of actively engaged communicators and publishers, and a “read only” audience that tunes in for information and news — and sometimes only tunes in when something major is happening. Public agencies sit squarely in the former group, but should continue to assess their Twitter strategy with the other group in mind.
  3. Embrace change. The audience on Twitter is too large to ignore and, despite the outcry, they aren’t leaving anytime soon. As Twitter and other social networking platforms continue to evolve, it’s important for agencies to stay abreast of what’s changing and adjust accordingly. Will tweets get longer? Maybe agencies can plan to embed more actionable information in their posts. Will Twitter algorithmically prioritize tweets? Maybe there’s a way agencies can ensure priority delivery during a crisis. We’ll have to wait and see, but let’s choose to react responsively rather than plan a funeral.

How might you stay on top of the latest news about Twitter? By being on Twitter, of course. And tuning in to the GovTech Social Podcast on iTunes and Stitcher.

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Anil Chawla
Anil Chawla is the founder and CEO of ArchiveSocial, a civic tech company that specializes in risk mitigation and open records management of government social media. The parent company of Government Technology is an investor in ArchiveSocial through e.Republic Ventures.

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