Last week, Megan Kate Nelson published a great piece on her blog about the limitations of Follow Women Wednesday going forward. One of the stunning revelations by Nelson’s post was her own blunt statement that #FollowWomenWednesday cannot keep going.
I skimmed the piece last week before class and that night went home to read it in-depth. My initial reaction to the downturn in the return of the Follow Women Wednesday imitative was the start of the semester caused the precipitous decline in tweets, retweets, and additional follows. I had a few other ideas after my initial reading that I wanted to share, but they are rather redundant because Nelson’s piece addresses nearly all of them and with some awesome data visualizations.
However, I am somewhat relieved that there is now some really useful data backing up what was merely a gut feeling on my part. If you are interested in the circulation of ideas or any form of communications networks, then I highly recommend reading Nelson’s piece. The evidence that Nelson provides a concrete sense of how limited a network academic Twitter is. The limitations of academic Twitter is something that many of us recognized, but it is helpful to data backing up that feeling.
Without any data, my impression of Follow Women Wednesday was that it was getting harder to do it. In the early days, following and retweeting was easy. I was introduced to the voices of many women that I hadn’t encountered before Nelson kicked off Follow Women Wednesday. Also, I had the chance to share accounts with many of my followers. It was great.
However, Follow Women Wednesday is getting harder and as Nelson’s data shows that has a lot to do with communications network in which it exists. My initial reaction is that I need to plan what to share on Wednesdays. That takes time. On Tuesdays I’m thinking ahead to the next Follow Women Wednesday and that I need to plan what I’m going to share. However, it is very hard because Tuesdays are some of my hectic days of the week. It is hard because I’m seeing many of the same accounts, many accounts I already follow, many accounts that I’ve shared and retweeted. I want to amplifying different voices.
I think a lot about Twitter and social media because of my own accounts and having made use of Twitter in several of my classes. Currently, I’m affiliated with four Twitter accounts. An account for 2 scholarly initiatives I’m collaborating on with others, my main account, and an account for my composition classes. That is a lot to deal with on a weekly basis. I’ve learned a lot about the limitations of Twitter and social media by working on those accounts. I’ve become more strategic about amplifying the accounts that I am affiliated with and that has spilled over to my thinking for Follow Women Wednesday.
I’d like to publicize Follow Women Wednesday on at least 3 of the accounts I have a hand in & amplify many more voices, but the planning that would take is daunting. As Liz Covart has shared in recent posts on her blog, social media, especially Twitter is hard. Social media is even harder when trying to break out to other audiences. Honestly, I might never have thought about these strategic issues of using social media without following Covart’s work. Covart has been very open & honest about the difficulties that she faces in sharing her content online. In addition to providing great historical content, Covart has been sharing a lot about how social media works, and doesn’t work, especially as a tool to engage with and build a larger audience. My circle of folks on Twitter knows that Covart’s work is great, especially Ben Franklin’s World, but to make Covart’s public history initiatives work, sustain themselves, they need to move beyond the academic Twitter audience.
However, as Nelson’s post points out, Follow Women Wednesday isn’t moving beyond academic Twitter. Follow Women Wednesday had that initial movement beyond a predominately humanities Twitter academic audience. I was happy to see Follow Women Wednesday picked up by science blogs and members of the science community, however, I was shocked by the inability of Follow Women Wednesday to move beyond an academic Twitter. Nelson addressed this inability of Follow Women Wednesday to move beyond academic networks. One of the most interesting points was the fact that an unwillingness of accounts to “pay it forward,” especially those that could amplify voices to many, many followers. I’m still shocked by this fact. I’m not sure what to make of it. Nelson describes this phenomenon in more detail:
In a world in which one tweet from Miley Cyrus can get a television show renewed, going viral necessitates the participation of at least one Twitter “star” – someone who has followers in the six-figure range, and who actively tweets.
Despite the fact that many participants in #FollowWomenWednesday have tweeted the handles of high-profile public intellectuals, women in media, and actors – none of these women have paid it forward. Also, a significant number of high-profile public intellectuals (like, say, Jill Lepore) are either not on Twitter, or tweet so infrequently (ex: Doris Kearns Goodwin) that they do not have much of a Twitter presence at all.
Follow Women Wednesday started out as an organic solution to a very important problem on Twitter, not jut academic Twitter. The sad feeling that I have, and Nelson’s data, I think, backs this up, is that very inorganic solutions are need to keep amplifying Follow Women Wednesday. The information that Covart has shared about her attempts to publicize her content shows that venues like Twitter, as spontaneous as they appear, aren’t as organic as we hoped or thought or wished.
It is sad that I think of Follow Women Wednesday as a #Brand that needs to be promoted. To maximize these new voices I encounter I don’t want to retweet a tweet I just saw. I want to wait a few hours when more people might see it. But I forget. I want to amplify voices others might not be familiar with from online. But it takes planning. I feel like I need metrics. I feel like I’m making judgments. I feel like I’m dealing with brand messaging and not the problem that Follow Women Wednesday seeks to address.
Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Maybe I am overthinking it. Maybe the visualized data is on the wall for Follow Women Wednesday, but I don’t want that to be the case. I want it to keep going.