While Twitter has taken the world by storm and we've talked about using social media for LGBT organizing, I'd like to expand the topic just a bit. I'd like to delve into how our community is getting its news and information - and how can we harness that to get our message into the broader mainstream consciousness?
To the right is a screenshot of my Twitter client (TweetDeck). I have a regular search for the word "LGBT" so I can catch items I may have missed, find new people to follow, and generally see what's buzzing at any given moment. When I grabbed this, these were the last few tweets that included "LGBT."
- 2 tweets about Miss California
- 2 tweets about LGBT health care
- 1 tweet about gay marriage
- 1 tweet about Angie Zapata
Looks similar to the front page of most major LGBT blogs, right? Let's examine the Angie Zapata tweet a little closer; it's actually a "retweet" - someone forwarding on a posting. In this case, I posted a link to Mercedes' "Disposable" post originally, Join The Impact retweeted it, another user retweeted that and then Projector Kelli Busey retweeted that user. What I typed was passed on to over 7100 people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in less than a half an hour. Details and a breakdown after the jump.
I originally Twittered about Mercedes' post at 10am. I took the screenshot at right at 10:30am. Notice how many times that one tweet of mine got retweeted?
I have over a thousand followers on Twitter. The Bilerico Project has its own Twitter account that has around several hundred followers. The TBP account automatically tweets when we have a new post on the site. Between the two accounts, that's 1899 people already.
Here's the people who have retweeted my original posting that I could spot right away and the number of followers they have:
Bilerico Tweets: 1899
Total Retweets: 6728
Grand Total: 8627
By the time you read this, that number will be over 10,000 easily. Think about that for a second. My one solitary tweet linking Twitter users to Mercedes Allen's post on the Angie Zapata murder trial will have been forwarded on over ten thousand times.
It's All About the Message
When we're pushing the LGBT agenda - whether to our own community or outsiders and allies, we have to stop and consider how they're getting it.
I just did an interview with a reporter from EDGE publications that focused on the print vs. digital news habits within the gay community. (I'll link it when it's printed; they also interviewed contributor Paige Schilt too.) One of the main areas that I stressed in my answers to his questions was that it's all about the message.
Print publications - whether LGBT or mainstream audience - have gotten in the mindset that they control the message. They're reluctant to give up that control to citizen journalists or the average reader. Instead, they've clung to the "But print has been around longer and should always be #1" philosophy that took down scroll makers once the printing press came along.
Most of our LGBT organizations are no different. Remember Prop 8 and how the message was carefully controlled by outside campaign managers? How far did that get us? What happened when grassroots LGBT activists became involved and no one was worried about controlling the message so rigidly?
Shit started happening.
By the thousands, LGBT people took to the streets. They protested not just in California, but in Indiana, Iowa and almost every other state. The message developed a life of its own. "Control" was lost. And it was a good thing.
When you look at the numbers posted above, stop and realize that this is a minor ping on Twitter. A recent statistic I read (although I can't find the link now doggone it!) said that almost 85% of Twitter users will retweet something a friend sent originally. 85%. Can you imagine what national LGBT groups would do if 85% of their membership took action on something? They'd wet themselves with sheer happiness.
It's time we take the message where it belongs. Out of the hands of the few and into the minds of the many. We can start with tools like Twitter.