Promulgating Ideas In Twitter Society PRESENTATION W/ NOTES
Promulgating Ideas in Twitter Society:
Our Purpose in Community &
Tara L. Conley
Writer, Blogger, Snew Media Consultant
YouthNoise.com | HeatingOil.com | The Life and Times of a Blogger
Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be with you all today. I want to thank Bob Fine, Kevin Powell, and the entire CTC folks for inviting me to
speak with you. Like Bob said, my name is Tara Conley and I will be talking with you today about sharing and dispersing ideas via Twitter – or
Twitter Society, as I like to think of it.
First, I should tell you a bit about myself and my background. I exist at the intersection of social and new media, or as I like to call it ‘snew’ media. I self‐
identify as the hardest working young woman in snew media because I’m all over the place – as you can see.
My fascination and participation with snew media began in 2005 when hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. I just finished my BA in English, and I was
teaching at a charter school in Houston, Texas. Survivors of hurricane Katrina were bussed to The Houston Reliant Center, which was basically my backyard
at the time. My best friend and I wanted to volunteer and so we did. I decided to take a video camera with me to document our experiences as volunteers
and to create a digital archive of one of the most devastating storms in U.S. history. I became a citizen journalist overnight. The footage later turned into a
mini‐documentary called A Region of Survivors (2006). I finished the doc while in graduate school in 2006. It’s currently available on CurrentTV.com and
has been shown in Women’s Studies, Family Studies, Sociology, and Psychology graduate courses. At the end of graduate school, my fascination with digital
media continued. I ended up producing another mini‐doc about the Jena Six controversy in Louisiana called The Foe Within: A Docupoem in Three Parts
(2008). This doc served as part of my Master’s thesis Confronting and Transforming the Foe Within: An Application of Nepantla Theory (2008).
Around this time, I also began blogging on Myspace and Blogger. I also started my own YouTube channel where I could express myself musically by singing
to thousands of strangers through a webcam. After grad school, I was able to parlay my personal fascination with snew media into a profession.
In 2008, I began working as a blogger for YouthNoise.com, a social media non‐profit in San Francisco. YN is currently partnered with Link TV and Nike with
our PlayCity campaign. I cover sport for good stories and interview athletes, community leaders, and activists that use sports and play to empower the
communities around them. I also worked as a communications and political associate for Brave New Films in Los Angeles. BNF is a political and social
activist non‐profit organization that mainly uses digital media to promulgate social justice ideas around the world. Currently, (in addition to working for
YouthNoise) I also work at HeatingOil.com as their new media manager. I manage all of their social networks and their blog.
So this is my evolution. This is how I went from digital documenting to blogging to vlogging to now microblogging. Mind you, these things
aren’t necessarily static or independent of each other, I continue to participate in all of these platforms simultaneously (both in my personal
and professional life). Twitter is my newest fascination. I’ve been on Twitter for almost a year, but I’ve been active within the past two
months. I use Twitter to promote and spread my own ideas, the ideas of colleagues, employers, friends, and as a way to expand my
professional and personal networks. People are discovering me and I’m discovering others all in this social space called ‘Twitter Society’.
Characteristics of a
•A space where cultural exchanges take place and un/written
rules, etiquette, and behaviors are thusly devised and supported
by the society.
• @user, RT (retweet), # (hashtags), H/T (hat tip)
•Acknowledge the Tweeter before you RT!
•Politicking/Rules of Engagement
•Political, academic, entertainment, music, social issues/non-profit
*See: danah boyd’s “Tweet, Tweet, Retweet: Conversational
Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter” (2010)
I refer to Twitter as a ‘society’ to denote a space where cultural exchanges take place and unwritten (and written) rules, etiquette, and
behaviors are thusly devised and supported. Perhaps what makes Twitter different from many of the other social networking sites (besides
being considered a microblogging platform) is the way in which written language is overwhelmingly specific to this snew media platform.
Tweet language (i.e. RT, hashtags, the @user acronym) is even being adopted within other platforms like Myspace and Facebook (Facebook
just recently incorporated its @mention function). Like in any cultural space, social clicks, networking, and the art of politicking exist. The trick
is knowing how to navigate within this new space while remaining part of the conversation. Incidentally, there’s also a Twitter jail, where
apparently if you tweet more than 100 tweets in an hour, Twitter will freeze your account for an hour or more until you’ve learned your lesson.
I have yet to go to Twitter jail, but from what my fellow Tweeters tells me, it sounds absolutely dreadful! For more on issues of class and
languaging via social networking, I highly suggest referencing danah boyd’s research in this area. It’s fascinating.
Twitter as Community?
Is Twitter a False Sense
•@seanpadilla: 140 characters @ a time
can't build community on its own, but it can
definitely plant a seed...
•@littlebrownjen: Hmmm..maybe a new
kind of community?
•When Twitter trends, so does the nation.
•Twitter has had one of biggest impacts on the news
cycle, firstly by often being the first media to break
news, in offering a discussion forum around
mainstream media coverage, and amplifying stories
that have appeared in traditional formats. (Dawson
I asked my tweeps if they think that Twitter is a false sense of community. I was struggling with trying to understand this new kind of space while at the
same time experiencing major SEO/snew Media exhaustion (it’s my full‐time job, my research interests, my leisure, everything I do). A few of my followers
responded with some interesting comments like @seanpadilla who tweeted [read] and @littlebrownjen who tweeted [read]. Twitter is certainly a different
kind of community; a new one, in fact, where activists, professionals, politicians, entertainers, educators, and otherwise still have to negotiate/navigate
within this space in order to best disseminate their ideas, products, services, and voices. The following image illustrates that while Twitter may have
roughly 50 million users, most are not very active, if at all. But that may be changing. It’s expected that Twitter’s active users will increase exponentially
over the next year, possibly out‐pacing it’s elder siblings, Myspace & Facebook. And as far as trending, while the Twitter community may not be as fully
active or grand in size compared to Facebook, when Twitter trends so does the nation. A recent article by business entrepreneur Ross Dawson analyzed
Samuel Degremont’s research on Twitter’s impact over the news and media cycles. Dawson writes, “Twitter has had one of biggest impacts on the news
cycle, firstly by often being the first media to break news, in offering a discussion forum around mainstream media coverage, and amplifying stories that
have appeared in traditional formats.” Twitter is a community, a new kind of micro community (compared to it’s virtual siblings) that has a profound
influence on how we get our news (we all pretty much know about the #balloonboy hoax at this point. Right? This story was very much amplified via
Twitter). Twitter has also changed how we communicate offline, like in the case of “tweetups” which are offline get togethers arranged on Twitter often
with people who you recently became acquainted with.
Tweeting the Personal
•Pick your Twitter battles wisely.
•Log-off, take a walk, read a book,
watch a movie, have sex, eat, get some
other work done. Do what you have to
do to remove yourself from the
•“It’s been real, Tweeps. Gotta go!”
•RT @TheJLV: Clarifying gets
numbing on Twitter.
•Tone can at times get lost in Twitter
•Always remember what you’re
tweeting for in the first place.
Participating in Twitter conversations is more than a requirement for my job. In between tweets about a latest HeatingOil.com,
YouthNoise.com, Life and Times of a Blogger post, or upcoming appearance, I’m engaging in conversations with friends, colleagues, readers,
and customers. So at times, tweeting becomes a personal act, particularly when I engage in conversations about social or political issues. As a
self‐identified feminist, I have to navigate within Twitter society carefully, consciously, and lovingly. I recently wrote a piece for Skirt Magazine
that will be published next month, entitled “Can Snew Media Make ‘Feminism’ More Friendly?” The assumption there is that feminism isn’t
friendly, (which shouldn’t matter), but with that question I try to unmask some dangerously hidden assumptions about feminism. The purpose
of the essay is to argue that feminist ideas and advocacy work can be promulgated using snew media platforms. Contentious issues like health
care, the war in Afghanistan, patriarchy, and even Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize have all been debated in Twitter Society. If I’m promoting a
recent blog about gender identity in sports, I have to acknowledge that this post will probably incite some lively debate in Twitter Society – as
it did. And of course, I welcome it. In the end, whether you’re a staunch feminist tweeting about women’s right, a politician tweeting about
domestic/foreign policy, or a blogger tweeting about her/his latest posting, we must always remember what we’re tweeting for. If you find
yourself exhausted or numbed by the process of tweeting the personal, it’s probably a good time to log off.
Pick your pitches wisely.
“Twitter is a marathon . . . Longer than a
tweet.” –David Patterson
We have to (re)member, as in reorganize and
recollect, the art of networking and conversing with
Twitter makes us better aware of
our purpose in the conversation.
Images: www.robcubbon.com, www.clipartof.com, www.issnaf.org
Like with your battles, you must pick your pitches wisely. Engage and dialogue with your followers, and by all means, do not advertise to
them. If you want your followers to check out your new product or post on your website, try to include why they should click on your
shortened link. Ask if they’d kindly retweet. Don’t expect your followers to simply click on where you want them to go, especially if you’ve
never tweeting with them before. Even @iamdiddy (P. Diddy) has to give his followers something to work with. (Incidentally, Shaquille O’Neal
is probably one of the most interesting Tweeters. He actually has his followers go on random goose chases, tweeting clues to his whereabouts!)
So this is where traditional business/advertising/marketing sense sorta goes out the window. We’ve been taught that the best way to advertise
is to control the conversation, but with the advent of snew media, particularly Twitter, we can’t necessarily only control the conversation, so we
must also engage in a conversation and learn how to manage it through dialogue – enabling our followers to be apart of what we’re promoting,
not simply consumers of it. Politicians, non‐profits, and entrepreneurs are learning how to (re)member, as in reorganize and recollect, the art
of networking and conversing with people. It’s basic communication at its finest. It isn’t simply about telling people what you want them to
know, but showing, explaining, encouraging, and engaging in a conversation in 140 characters at a time (while avoiding Twitter Jail in the
While Twitter certainly has its drawbacks when it comes to communicating with people, one thing Twitter is great for professionally and
personally (and perhaps where all the other social networks fail), is it makes us better aware of our purpose in the conversation. And for
activists, politicians, advocates, educators, non‐profits, this idea of finding purpose in a conversation taking place with over 50 million people
worldwide is quite profound. The brilliance of Twitter is that 140 characters at a time forces you to want to engage in longer, broader
conversations happening within your stream and on other streams. Devising a tweet to become part of the conversation is like waiting for the
right moment to jump inside a double Dutch rope; you instantly become aware that what you say in 140 characters must be meaningful to
those that chose to follow you. You realize that if you can’t add much to the conversation, you become a passive observer, potentially losing
out on customers, readers, followers, and networks.
The Life and Times of a Blogger (www.taralconley.wordpress.com)
Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com/tara-l-conley)
And with that, I’ll end by saying let’s converse! Please feel free to keep in touch with me on Twitter, Life & Times, YouTube, The Huffington
Post, Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouthNoise, or HeatingOil.com. Thanks so much!
•“Twitter’s Impact on th News & Media Cycle” by Ross Dawson
•“Tweet, Tweet, Ka-Ching: Twitter is Changing the Way Non-profits Make the Ask” by
•“Tweeting the Electorate” by Kate Paul and Daniel Stone (Newsweek)
•“10 Ways Twitter Will Change American Business” by Douglas A. McIntyre (Time)
•“Social Pulpit: Barack Obama’s Social Media Toolkit” (Slideshow)
•“Twitter is a Marathon . . . Longer Than A Tweet” by David Patterson
•“7 Amazing Twitter Visualizations” 10,000 Words Blog
•Danah Boyd Publications on Social Networking