Time to Examine Your Social Media Options – Inside Higher Ed | Team Cansler

As of this writing, the future of Twitter is unclear. Elon Musk has taken the helm with policies and practices resulting in massive layoffs and resignations that have jeopardized the social media tool’s regular operations. Some experts are even predicting the demise of Twitter. This has caused concern among a wide range of users, from casual news and entertainment fans to government agencies. Public authorities now rely on Twitter to disseminate and share information in emergencies. The acquisition of Twitter has led them to look for other, more credible, stable, and secure ways for emergency communications.

I’ve only lost a few dozen followers out of several thousand on Twitter; Presumably they fell off the platform due to the recent changes. At the same time, I noticed that my network on LinkedIn has expanded. I haven’t investigated if there is direct cause and effect, but I suspect Twitter Flight is one of the causes. The changes have prompted me to add my LinkedIn and Mastodon addresses to my Twitter profile so followers preparing to leave can find my daily UPCEA-curated reads on other social media.

I’ve found that higher education professionals are looking for ways to catch up on news and information and engage their community through social media. This is necessary to respond to the tide of change unleashed daily by technological advances and the economic and political changes affecting higher education. For our professional purposes, we’re less interested in memes, animal tricks, and music videos. We strive to build vibrant and tailored Personal Learning Networks (PLN) from trusted sources that provide information and participate in discussions related to relevant issues as they apply to us personally, our institution and our circumstances. These individualized PLN networks are also where we learn about advancement opportunities and new career paths.

The most relevant platform for UPCEA, the Association for Professional, Continuous and Online Education Leaders (of which I am a Senior Fellow), and its members is CORe (Collaborative Online Relationships), open to these professionals among the hundreds of UPCEA member institutions. Members ask questions, make announcements, consider collaborations, and engage with one another on hot topics across many aspects of professional, continuous, and online higher education. Other associations in our field similarly maintain open and/or closed list services designed to facilitate the dissemination of information and platforms for discussion around their own niches in higher education. Nonetheless, there is still a need for a broader discussion about the new technologies, the development of strategic options and the changing policies and related changes we are facing in the general public.

When we look at our social media PLN options, it seems that our needs cannot be satisfied by the short video formats common on TikTok and Instagram. In part, we are looking to set up and maintain professional networks; share updates; and stimulate creative discussions on how to better serve learners and reach new audiences.

What are the alternatives? Luckily, a number of platforms are available online to meet these needs. A few decades ago, I started curated reading lists of online discussions for students enrolled in my graduate courses on emerging technologies. I used Blogger, which is from Pyra Labs and later acquired by Google (Alphabet). Out of that experience grew UPCEA’s flagship curated reading list, the Professional, Continuing and Online Education Update. The blogger tool remains a symbol for the exchange of stimulating ideas intended to encourage deeper discussions between professionals. WordPress, Tumbler, and Reddit followed with other similar blogging sites. You can easily search blogs online to find the ones that are active and relevant to your needs. For me, Blogger remains the anchor of my social media, where my curations are kept in a long-term, searchable format, and from which I feed the microblogging sites of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and (now) Mastodon. Each of these sites has its own strengths and weaknesses, so I find using all of them helps to reach a wide audience on every continent.

Facebook (Meta) serves as an informal networking platform for many. Traditionally, Facebook was more of a casual than a professional network. It remains to be seen how the platform will evolve with the advent of a promised metaverse. Perhaps the new environment will provide us with a variety of new tools that can facilitate academic collaboration and information dissemination.

Mastodon offers the most similar look and feel to Twitter. Behind the scenes, however, it’s a very different company. It consists of a federation of open-source, non-profit servers linked together to provide worldwide access. Although it has existed since 2016, by the end of October the number of users had reached one million. That number has doubled in the past month and continues to grow rapidly.

LinkedIn is more than a site for job seekers. Serious professional discussions and networking are happening throughout the platform. There are numerous relevant groups on LinkedIn that serve specialized interests. For example, these range from various topics including the Group Quality, Innovation and Sustainability in Higher Education with around 12,000 members is aimed at all profiles of a wide range of participants up to large groups like the university management Group with almost 130,000 members to discuss management and leadership issues. These are just a few of the thousands of different groups that communicate on LinkedIn.

Take the time to consider your PLN given the disruption to Twitter. Are there other social sites that might better serve your needs? Now is the time for a reassessment as Twitter reorganizes and other social networks expand their offerings.

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