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How might policy organisations respond to Twitter’s turmoil?

November 22, 2022 #Insights
How might policy organisations respond to Twitter’s turmoil?
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Since Twitter was purchased by businessman Elon Musk, there have been lively discussions about the platform’s future.

All this talk may be underlined by a real risk of collapse (given the company’s troubles), or by hyperbole from some of the platform’s fans (some of whom may quite like to see Musk fail).

Either way, it’s cause for concern for research and policy organisations, who rely on Twitter to connect with audiences and shape political discussion.

Twitter is not the largest platform in terms of quantity of users, but it’s a powerful one. It has been the home of journalists, politicians, policymakers and political influencers for years. And there’s no doubt that if it collapses or diminishes, its power and usefulness will be difficult to replicate.

If your organisation spends time, resources and money on Twitter, and relies on it for information, community and access to audiences, you may well be asking yourself: what are the options for response?

Here are some, but we’d love to hear what you think. Take a minute to let us know what you think about what’s happening, and how your organisation is responding.

Option 1: Watch and wait

Despite the talk, many Twitter users are dependent upon (not to mention addicted to) the platform. And the fact that Twitter’s troubles are being poured over on, well, Twitter, might be a sign it’s business as usual.

But if users do leave in earnest, it may take time to see what the ‘new’ gathering place is. 

The fact that the company itself may collapse – declare bankruptcy, lose all of its staff – is another option for a closure. That could happen very suddenly, or could take a while.

In either case, it’s unclear whether a new or different platform will take its place, or whether users will scatter across a range of platforms. 

And it might all blow over.

So watching and waiting is an option. If you do, don’t do so passively. Identify your must-have audiences and networks. Do you need to be where the journalists are? The activist citizens? The politicians? If there is a move, would you go where the focus is broadcasting and news, or nurturing networks and discussion? What’s your priority?

Option 2: Diversify

Arguably, the instability we’re seeing is a return to the earlier days of social media where there was a lot more uncertainty. Social media companies and their users were scrappier, more agile, less professionalised.

In this space, it was necessary to stay on your toes and experiment. And for some influencers and media outlets – those who move with changing trends in popular social media platforms – this has remained the go-to approach.

The policy bubble, meanwhile, is a lot more settled on Twitter. That means the change will be harder. Moving to other platforms or shifting attention over to existing but less-loved accounts may take some work. 

For some, this may be a welcome push to branch out of Twitter’s elite space and start to reach a broader public audience.

Yet for some it may be a welcome push to branch out of this elite space and start to reach a broader public audience. Because we know that Twitter is not representative of the populations that policies serve. It’s perhaps for this very reason that it feels safer for policy organisations than other platforms, and there has been less incentive to move beyond it.

So if you’ve been pondering whether to explore a new platform – or better nurture an existing alternative – now may be the time to start.

Option 3: Change course

Twitter has become an inevitability for research and policy organisations. But some organisations may feel trapped by it. We write the tweets, we monitor the debate, we try to push engagement – around we go. But is this getting us the impact we want?

Other platforms are an option. But so, too, are completely different channels and modes of reaching your audiences.

Could you bring your research to existing content creators or influential organisations – for them to share? Or find creative ways for building spaces for discourse and information exchange – like Pint Of Science’s in-person public events, or Policy Kitchen’s platform for collaborative policy formation?

It’s clearly a disruptive time that will bring some challenges. Still, with these challenges come opportunities to be creative.

However you decide to respond, we’d really like to hear about it. Could you share your current thinking with us? It’ll only take a minute.

Photo by Akshar Dave on Unsplash

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