Contributed blog by Angie Ramirez, Freelance Writer at Government Social Media
In case you missed it, Twitter has been undergoing a few changes recently.
Since purchasing Twitter in late 2022, Elon Musk dissolved Twitter's board of directors, launched Twitter Blue, sparked a mass resignation that shut down offices, and inspired the #RIPTwitter trending hashtag as users everywhere wondered if Twitter was actually coming to an end.
It’s been a few months now, and *knock on wood* things have started to mellow out. But, not without significant changes, especially for government agencies using the platform.
One of the biggest changes: What do the new verification checkmark colors mean? Read on for everything you need to know about Twitter’s recent checkmark changes and how they impact government social media accounts.
If you’ve been on ‘do not disturb’ since the holidays, let me catch you up. In November 2022, Twitter released, then redacted, and re-released, Twitter Blue – an $8/month subscription service that allows users to essentially buy a blue checkmark.
The once coveted checkmark that distinguished accounts as “verified” was suddenly available to all willing to pay-to-play. And the results were this: Trolls quickly flooded the platform with imposter accounts that, at first glance, looked authentic and had a nice little blue checkmark for added credibility. This included impersonation accounts for politicians, celebrities, corporations, and anything you can imagine.
As socialgovs know all too well, government agencies are already prone to impersonation accounts – which can pose serious public safety threats and lead to misinformation. So, the blue checkmark release had many socialgovs sweating — myself included.
To combat this issue, Twitter backpedaled, temporarily removed the blue checkmarks, and tried again – but with a few nuances to distinguish official government accounts.
The TL;DR: Government agencies will start to see a gray checkmark instead of blue ones. Here’s a breakdown of what the different check marks mean.
To help clear up some of the confusion about the new checkmark system, Twitter published a Profile Labels page in the Help Center that breaks down what different colors mean.
Blue: According to Twitter, blue marks indicate one of two things: Either an account was verified under the previous verification criteria, or the account is subscribed to Twitter Blue. Accounts that have a blue checkmark due to a Twitter Blue subscription do not have to undergo the old authentication process.
Gold: According to Twitter, “The gold checkmark indicates that the account is an official business account through Twitter Verified Organizations.” Brands sporting the shiny gold check mark include @CocaCola, @Wendys, @Walmart, and other national brands. News outlets, including national and local news, are also eligible for the gold checkmark.
Gray: Government social media professionals will likely notice that their once blue checkmarks have been replaced. Gray checkmarks are reserved for government agencies and officials. Here is what Twitter has to say about the gray checkmark:
“The grey checkmark indicates that an account represents a government institution or official, or a multilateral organization. Specifically, eligible government institutions include: national and local crisis response, public safety, law enforcement, and regulatory agencies, embassies, and other major national level agencies. Eligible elected or appointed officials include: heads of state, foreign official spokespeople, top diplomatic leaders, cabinet members (national level). Eligible multilateral organizations include institutional accounts, top officials, and official spokespeople.”
Today you will begin to see grey checkmarks on accounts that represent government institutions and multilateral organizations.— Twitter Global Government Affairs (@GlobalAffairs) December 19, 2022
We're just getting started on this expansion. You'll see more appear on qualifying accounts in the near future. https://t.co/EV8DVUIeyB
What does this mean for verification? According to Twitter, only accounts actively subscribed to Twitter Blue are eligible to receive the blue checkmark. Government accounts should automatically receive a gray checkmark, confirming their official channel.
Many government agencies rely on Twitter as a powerful tool to disseminate information quickly, especially in times of emergency. According to HubSpot, a quarter of U.S. adults use Twitter making it one of the most popular social media sites globally. As government communicators, we understand the importance of meeting our community where they are. If conversations are taking place on Twitter, it’s important for government agencies to join those conversations and offer essential information that can keep the community informed.
That said, the confusion during the release of Twitter Blue caused several socialgovs to consider how they’d respond if Twitter shut down. Keeping leadership in the loop during these changes is essential, so that your agency can pivot as needed.
To prepare for a possible Twitter shutdown, several government accounts encouraged users to follow their other official social media channels:
Is Twitter dying? Who knows! Let's keep in touch.— Seattle OEM (@OEMSeattle) November 18, 2022
Text SEATTLE to 67283 - you'll instantly sign up for free emergency alerts from @AlertSeattle. You can customize alert preferences and locations, and add email or phone call alerts by creating an account: https://t.co/9oPK3bXeN9 pic.twitter.com/vboP1wMvup
Downloading our Twitter archive today because really not sure what's going to happen tomorrow much less next month on this platform. Here's the link if you want to download your own data https://t.co/nE2JubdQpi pic.twitter.com/UyQaEsWfgZ— WA Emergency Management (@waEMD) November 17, 2022
If The Twitter breaks tonight, do NOT…repeat DO NOT call 911. We have no idea how to fix it.— Gig Harbor Police (@GigHarborPolice) November 18, 2022
As of the time I'm writing this blog, the fear of an immediate Twitter shutdown has subsided, but it’s important for socialgovs to keep an eye on the situation as it unfolds and prepare to pivot as needed.
Here are some great resources to help stay in the loop with any updates:
@TwitterGov for any updates affecting government accounts
@Verified for updates on the verification process
@TwitterSupport for helpful tips and info on any other changes
Social media is a shape-shifting landscape, and remaining flexible and open to adaptation is part of the gig. As Elon Musk just rounded 100 days since taking over Twitter, government social media professionals are standing by to respond to any future changes as needed.
Still feeling a bit uneasy about all the Twitter changes?
Don’t miss a special session at this year’s Government Social Media Conference titled “What the Tweet? Navigating Twitter Changes for Government.” I’m honored to be one of the speakers alongside amazing government social media pros Natasha Shahani of the City of Las Vegas and Mike Allende of the Washington State DOT. We’ll be discussing Twitter changes as they unfold, so come hang out, bring your questions, and soak in the camaraderie as we navigate the latest Twitter changes for governments together.
Freelance Writer - Government Social Media LLC
Angela Ramirez (Pitts) is the Communications Strategist for the City of Tampa. Her primary responsibilities include managing the City’s social media profiles and assisting the Marketing & Communications department with all external communication needs. Angela helped grow the City’s Instagram profile from less than 1k followers to over 100k in 5 years. She also helped the City of Tampa become one of the first municipalities to join TikTok. Her work in social media has been featured by national outlets, including CNN Politics and Smart Cities Drive.
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