Social Media: Twitter & Internet Censorship

(aka how NOT to get threatened on twitter)

Warning: This is going to be a long post.

One of the reasons I started the BlueAnt Blag was to showcase my work, to tell prospective clients/people how and why to use social media towards whatever ends they had in mind. But there are already a lot of ‘How To’s’ online, and I dont want to do yet another one.

So I’m going to use experiences instead. Some of these may be instructive, but most of them will go deeper than ‘click this, write that, post and comment’. Here goes the first one.

Context: We are in the middle of a scuffle; the Indian government is trying to muzzle certain sites, especially video sharing sites, while Anonymous is trying to revolt by bringing down government sites (their twitter updates are here). Every few hours one or another government or related site goes down. Every few hours the government doesn’t respond. The situation gets worse, because there is almost no mainstream media coverage of this.

Execution: I’m anti-censorship. No matter what your political inclination may be, ‘freedom’ is the right to let people speak their mind especially if you dont agree with them. I also have a blog and I’m constantly looking for work. So how do I get to a wide variety of people, while still talking about an issue that’s burning the web?

The trick of the social web is time. Not high quality. Not immaculate media. But to get out there at a time of day when people will listen and on a topic that’s relevant.

End product: I had been working on ‘Technology Do Mine’ last week and fun of writing lo-hi rhyming verse still worked for me. On a drive home, I wrote a little rhyme against the Indian minister responsible for all the censorship. It was simple and inelegant. But it was relevant.

The social web is a bazar. Millions of people rant, rave, shout and cry on it every moment. The trick is to get your content seen is to target relevant people. People who care for your topic, people who’s reach is many times your own. People called ‘key influencers’

Since my rhyme was on net censorship, on twitter I targeted Cory Doctorow, possibly the biggest advocate against censorship and geek-god. I also targeted anonymous, since my poem mentioned and lauded them. They retweeted me; to hundreds of thousands of people who religiously follow them.

I didn’t use Facebook (I used it much later), because Facebook is about people I know. And the people I know aren’t important enough to have thousands of friends. On Twitter though, good content reaches you from any where, on Facebook you have to be ‘friends’.

Result: The rhyme spread out to quite a few people, people I could count via the analytics on my site. While anonymous discussed the rhyme on IRC chat, people coming to my blog peaked at over 250 (the spike in the images shows this). The rhyme reached out, but it also pushed this blog to places it wouldnt have reached before. Job done!

Anonymous IRC on the Rhyme
Visitor spike to this blog

Lessons: time, time, time and targeting the right people. Without that, even the best, most produced content, wilts. But this needs to be constantly done. In the blog visits graph above, you also see that as soon as the spike builds, it also dissipates. To convert a spike into a plateau, you need to be doing this all the time.

Target wrong and you get into trouble. In my hurry, while I was targeting twitterati, I also included a few people of a more, lets say, aggressive predisposition. I got threats of violence and destruction of my property (specifically the contours of my face). This was my fault entirely. But it brought about a threatening bigoted conversation, with people you don’t want to meet, even at a public place.

So target, and try not to become one!



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