Twitter has become a necessary and useful tool for sharing information, thoughts, and ideas in seconds and to a vast number of people. Moreover, a set of frequent and constant Twitter users has emerged that keep the flow of tweets going, many of them are in the new field of social media, many more, according to several studies, are journalists and bloggers like myself. And all want to get to 1 million followers.
The standard rule to gain followers is to be relevant – to issue between 10 and 20 tweets per day, particularly on a few sets of topics, thus establishing you as an expert.
So you do that, and more, but then run across a Twitter account like that of Amy Jo Martin or Veronica Belmont and think “Wow, they have over one million followers, but only tweet about half as much as I do. How can that be?”
It’s a great question. After all, neither Martin or Belmont has a new album, or a talk show, or a slew of top movies, or a TV show. So how can it be that two people you’ve never heard of have over one million followers?
Well, both were listed on Twitter’s original suggested user’s list. It’s a list that’s now basically defunct, but it’s impact is still felt. How one got on the list was simple: for the most part you had to be known by Twitter’s then small staff at the time when Twitter wasn’t the force it has become today. In other words, if you were on it, it’s more likely you were connected with Twitter in some kind of way, or a celebrity.
It explains why the original list follows the American social norms this blogger has come to rail against: the only time a black person was on such a list was if they were a rapper or athlete. It’s why I’ve said, time and again, that blacks in tech need to make their own platforms and blogs and establish their own social circles – because when both grow, people of all colors will want to join them.
If the social mix of Twitter’s original staff were different, or if they went in with the idea that it should be completely mixed via race and sex, there would have been blacks on it you never heard of who had over 1 million followers.
Think about it.
Oh, and by all of this, I’m not advocating segregation, so please don’t assume that I am. What I’m trying to help curb in this small way is the attitude that some African Americans have where “You have to be white” do so something. That’s a view which is thankfully diminishing, but not fast enough for my taste. But little social messages like who has over a million Twitter followers contribute to that view, at least for those who don’t want to look behind the curtain.
But for those who do, like me, such messages are dangerous. For example, one could use the “million Twitter Follower” mark to help promote themselves as a social media expert, but not explain how they got the million Twitter followers.
So, someone black sees that, and says (and this does happen), “See. different rules for us,” when that’s not entirely true at all. It’s not “rules” but lack of integrated social circles that’s the problem. The best news is this problem is starting to fade, in tech and in America, albeit slowly.