Alicia Eler

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Sizing up Chicago LGBT publications’ Twitter Feeds

At my TweetCamp Chicago presentation on October 10th, 2009, I discussed how arts journalists could use the Twitter application Hootsuite to organize and keep up with goings on at hundreds of museums.

During the presentation, I noticed two Twitter models at play:

Tweeting like a representative of a company by only posting links to articles about your own company; and

Tweeting like a community hub by posting links to more than just your own articles and announcements. Exchange tweets with your community, link articles outside of your own company that may be of interest to your followers, and actively look for people with similar interests.

Now I’m going to look at one of my own hyperlocal niches of interest, Chicago LGBT niche publications, to figure out how each of the three publications uses their Twitter feed.

Windy City Times

I’ve been a Windy City Times reader for a few years now. (Full disclosure: I have written a few articles for them.) They appear to be doing a pretty good job on their Twitter feed.

@WindyCityTimes1

1,912 following

1,501 followers

  • Tweets act as preview bits for their articles, and then link directly to said articles,
  • are clear and easy to read.
  • @WindyCityTimes1 follows everyone who follows them, showing readers that they care, and
  • acts like a Twitter-version of the actual newspaper
  1. Windy City Times
    WindyCityTimes1 Nice tribute to Windy City Times photog Kat Fitzgerald, from HBHC gala, http://bit.ly/1eRT0P
  2. Windy City Times
    WindyCityTimes1 Hate-crimes Senate vote tops big gains today for LGBTs, http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/
  3. Windy City Times
    WindyCityTimes1 When straight people make us cry, in a GOOD way–WWII vet for same-sex marriage in Maine, http://bit.ly/MKHhy
  4. this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

But, and here’s the big but, there is no interaction with any of the WCT’s 1,912 followers. Plus, their tweets aren’t posted daily.

I’d like to see more tweets from them on a regular basis and, since their tweets are mostly newsy, I wonder if they’d consider a model that a few mainstream media sources have embraced: breaking the news on Twitter before publishing the story.

In August 2009, WCCO Breaking News tweeted that “sure-fire future Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Brett Favre had signed a two-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings” before their story was even visible online. A few tweets in, once the story was finished, they tweeted out the story link. Their pageviews rocketed to 100,000 in only one hour as compared to 30,000 total per day. This was all thanks to clever Twitter strategy. This Mashable article, that I’ve already excerpted from, explains the complete rationale behind breaking news on Twitter first.

Of course, the numbers aren’t going to be as big for a small, local, community newspaper, but this would still be a worthwhile experiment. If nothing else, it would give Windy City Times a chance to figure out how many of their readers are active on Twitter, and how those readers react to news that breaks on Twitter. Plus, what’s the big deal about tweeting the news before it’s online or in print? After all, Windy City Times gives away their content for free  online and in print,  so tweeting it for free first seems like the next logical step.

But the Windy City Times doesn’t own Chicago’s LGBT news coverage. The Chicago Free Press is their direct competitor.

@ChiFreePress

610 following

650 followers

  • Twitter feed reads like an RSS or Twitter-version of the newspaper,
  • announces community events, and
  • follows everyone who follows them, showing readers that they care.
  • Unfortunately, they haven’t tweeted since October 9th. Twitter is a constant stream of information, so if publications want people to stay devoted to aTwitter feed, they have to keep tweeting.

  1. Chicago Free Press
    ChiFreePress Chicago Police Dept. 23rd District District Advisory Committee meets at 6 p.m. today, 3608 N. Halsted.
  2. Chicago Free Press
    ChiFreePress Alleged anti-gay cop’s attorneys file motion to stay and cop placed on administrative leave http://tinyurl.com/yec5457
  3. Chicago Free Press
    ChiFreePress Alleged anti-gay cop Fiorito busted this guy for a DUI, but take a look @ the surveillance footage. What do u think? http://bit.ly/18Bsoj
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Windy City Times and Chicago Free Press feel newsier, while Gay Chicago Magazine comes off as a bit lighter. How does this publication compare on Twitter?

@gay_chicago

0 following

4,032 followers

Their follower numbers are higher than either Windy City Times or Chicago Free Press, but guess what? They don’t follow anyone back. To me, this feels  like someone who just likes to talk and doesn’t want to hear what the other person has to say.

It’s also curious to note that they don’t tweet out many of their own articles. Much of this Twitter feed is devoted to community announcements, articles by other publications, the occasional conversation with a member of the community, and job ads.

Job ads, really? Now there’s really no need for a classifieds section, right? Maybe they’re on to something else: Using Twitter as a place for advertisements. Both Twittad and AdCause are services for Twitter-based ads that Gay Chicago Magazine might consider using.

  1. Gay Chicago Magazine
    Gay_Chicago Need a job? KENNEL ASSISTANT with exceptional customer service skills wanted, M-F, 3pm-10pm and rotate weekends. Call Joseph, 312-659-7387.
  2. Gay Chicago Magazine
    Gay_Chicago A slap on the wrist. Geneva teacher reprimanded for gay slur. http://tinyurl.com/yfg7nes
  3. Gay Chicago Magazine
  4. Gay Chicago Magazine
    Gay_Chicago 11th Annual Matthew Shepard March tonight from 7:00 PM – 9:45 PM. Meet at the 7-11 parking lot, corner of Halsted & Roscoe.
  5. Gay Chicago Magazine
    Gay_Chicago @qbofdamidwest I’m just the Gay Chicago Twitter guy. You’ll have to send your music to Mr. Lewis, he’s the editor. @gaychimag.com”>jlewis@gaychimag.com
  6. this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

Gay Chicago Magazine also uses the image of their weekly magazine as their thumbnail image, whereas Windy City Times and Chicago Free Press use their logo. Which technique works best? That depends on who you are. Personally, I prefer the solid brand, rather than a thumbnail that every other week.

Now that we’ve looked at each of these three publications, it’s time to determine their Twitter feed type.

Both the Windy City Times and the Chicago Free Press’ Twitter feeds read like a representative of the company is tweeting their news. If these publications want to be seen on Twitter as strictly news sources, they should keep up what they’re doing, and be sure to tweet more often.

Gay Chicago Magazine’s Twitter is more like a community hub. If that’s what they’re going for, they should continue to do exactly what they’re doing, and post more ads on their Twitter feed.

Overall, I’d like to see more tweets from all three of these publications, and interaction with LGBT publications in other cities across the country. Why should we isolate ourselves in Chicago? Ultimately, all LGBT publications have some political motive behind them, so it’s important to link up with like-minded publications’ Twitter feeds.

LGBT Twitter politics aside, Twitter is a fun, admittedly addicting social media service. In these three examples, Chicago’s niche LGBT publications all use their Twitter feeds in different ways, which makes sense because each publication caters to a different type of queer. Ultimately, the number of followers won’t determine a publication’s success–reader returns will. So what is Twitter doing for each of these publication’s readers?

Because I’m a news fiend, I prefer Windy City Times’ slick, news-only Twitter feed. I like the way Chicago Free Press writes, but I wish they’d update more often. I enjoy watching Gay Chicago Magazine’s interaction with the community, especially oddballs who tweet directly at them; their response to @qbofdamidwest (Quarterback of the Midwest? huh?) is pretty hilarious. It’s refreshing to see their community involvement, particularly around important city events like the 11th Annual Matthew Shepard March.

HootsuiteLGBTQ

I follow all three of these publications on Twitter, and use  Hootsuite to organize them (see image left). I’ve created a tab for LGBTQ News, and a column within that tab for Chicago LGBTQ news.

As I look for other LGBTQ publications around the country, and reliable LGBTQ bloggers, I’ll add them to my Twitter feed and my Hootsuite LGBTQ News tab.

The number one rule on Twitter is “be yourself.” In an age where consumers are constantly forced to fend off and deconstruct advertisements both on- and offline, the best thing to do with a Twitter feed is to keep it real–and that goes for organizations and individuals alike.

Filed under: LGBT, media, new media, social media, , , , , , ,

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