Alicia Eler


How we won Maine’s Question 1 vote on Twitter, but lost it in real life

I was on edge last night, using  every social media outlet possible to follow the Question 1 vote in Maine.

It seemed like a sure-bet win for No on Question 1. If it passed, gay marriage in Maine would be repealed.

Not only did Governor John Baldacci completely change his views, coming over to support No On Question 1, but honestly, how could the Right defeat us on Question 1 after we already lost Prop8 in California earlier this year?

I was wrong. This morning I learned that Maine voters repealed their gay marriage law. No on Question 1 lost, 47.23% to 52.77%.

Here are a few snippets showing how I used Twitter to follow discussions about Question 1:

Twitter Hashtag Search (

Maine voters organized on Twitter through hashtags #VoteNoOn1 and #NoOn1. By 8pm CDT last night, Maine was a trending topic on Twitter, as seen on this Trendistic report.

Here are a few thoughtful, liberal-minded quotes I gathered this morning from Twitterers who are upset by the Maine Question 1 results:

  1. Jonathan Moscowitz
    mistercapri RT @djcala RT @justincole: Jesse Ventura on CNN: If you put it up to the vote of the people, we’d have slavery again. #VoteNoOn1
  2. JD
    argylestyle RT @mrpinkoutloud Maine: High on pot. Low on love. #NoOn1 #VoteNoOn1 // high on pot and hate
  3. sea4sky
    sea4sky Why is gay marriage subject to the tyranny of the majority? Isn’t this why James Madison invented the life-tenured fed judiciary? #VoteNoOn1
  4. Manny Lozano
    falsemirror RT @aurosan: If you are conservative and believe in small goverment why do you use the government to control my personal life? #VoteNoOn1
  5. Matt
    mcm0818 Very disappointing news from Maine. Looks like our only hope is repealing DOMA and legalizing gay marriage on the federal level. #VoteNoOn1

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In the meantime, progressives also overran the #VoteYesOn1 and #YesOn1 hashtags, using them to voice their opinions about the election results:

  1. Richard Fortunato
    MoonsetMirror why do the #voteyeson1 people have such hatred as their raison d’etre? Also-How can they fantasize that THEY’RE the victims? #VoteNOon1
  2. Harmony Wu
    harmonywu RT @megmassey: Lobster is also an abomination according to Leviticus. BOYCOTT MAINE LOBSTAH! #shameonmaine #voteyeson1
  3. Masoud
    MasoudTorabi RT @Milpool32 Did you #VoteYesOn1? Then you’re hateful and intolerant! How does gay marriage affect you personally? It DOESN’T! Pricks.

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Here’s a particularly interesting conversation between @mburmy, a conservative, religious man in Wisconsin, and @CoaHT, a self-described “free thought activist” (location not given):

  1. HL
    CoaHT @mburmy Hi, I’m a guy whose family u want to force into a 2nd class so u can still spew hate without getting weird looks. I spoke; now you!
  2. Michael Burmeister
    mburmy @CoaHT Nobody’s forcing you into “2nd class”. And you still have the right to marry-there are lots of women who would LOVE to have you!
  3. HL
    CoaHT @mburmy They said basically the same thing in the 60s – “Fuck you and your family; you have the right to marry someone of your own race.”
  4. HL
    CoaHT RTing this for posterity. @mburmy said why he’s against gay marriage: so he can be anti-gay without criticism.
  5. Michael Burmeister
    mburmy @CoaHT Family? You mean you’ve discovered a way for same-sex couples to reproduce? (You should patent that-you’d be a TRILLIONAIRE!)
  6. Michael Burmeister
    mburmy @CoaHT I’m not “anti-gay”. You deserve the same basic human rights as anyone else. I just don’t see how marriage is a “basic human right”.
  7. HL
    CoaHT @mburmy Loving vs. Virginia – “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man'”
  8. Michael Burmeister
    mburmy @CoaHT Virginia’s constitution defines marriage as “between one man and one woman”. Men can marry any woman, women can marry any man.

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And here’s some straight up conservative quotes from #VoteYesOn1 conservatives, reaffirming the usual false, God/faith-based arguments used to spew hate and bigotry, and undermine LGBT people:

  1. Michael Burmeister
    mburmy 80% reporting, and #VoteYesOn1 is leading 52% to 48%-GOD STILL RUNS THIS SHOW!
  2. Elizabeth Prata
    elizabethprata @Fayeelizibeth Lot’s daughters sinned and they paid for it. Homosexuality is a sin and gays do not qualify for marriage…I hope Yes on 1!

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I’ll continue following these hashtags by leaving a tabs open. In one tab, I have a search for #VoteNoOn1, and in another I have #VoteYesOn1.

I’ve also set-up RSS feeds for the specific Twitter search terms, and dropped them into my Google Reader. This is an easier way to toggle between different feeds.

I’m also using the fantastic Twitter client Hootsuite to organize each of these searches. I created a new tab on my Hootsuite account called “Maine Question 1.” Within this tab, I set-up  columns for each of these Question 1 searches:

  • column one: keyword tracking for #VoteNoOn1, #NoOn1
  • column two: keyword tracking for #VoteYesOn1, #YesOn1;
  • column three: search for Maine
  • column four: search for Question 1
  • column five: keyword tracking for #lgbt, #gaymarriage

Of course, Twitter by no means replaces traditional journalism; I’ve been following the entire Maine story through journalist Rex Wockner and the Bangor Daily News.

My goal with new media observations like these is to marry traditional journalism with new media.

As I write this, I’m still puzzling over how this seemingly sure-fire win on the progressive side lost. And I’m surprised that, even though the left organized much better on social media sites like Twitter and raised more money on the ground than the YesOn1 campaign, NoOn1 still fell short in the final election counts.

Twitter, like any social media platform, is a place where people engage in discussion and share information. It’s thrilling to see the conversations and photo galleries as they unfold in real-time, on the night of the election, and during the morning after.

But if we’re going to change peoples’ minds, is Twitter the place to do it? As with any grassroots organizing campaign, education begins at home, in our local communities and within our local government. If we can change that, maybe we really will have a shot at equal rights for all.

Interested in tracking elections on Twitter and other social media platforms?

This Mashable article gives a nice rundown of how citizens, citizen journalists and journalists alike used Twitter and social media tools to track the Iranian elections.


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

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.


1,912 following


  • 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,
  2. Windy City Times
    WindyCityTimes1 Hate-crimes Senate vote tops big gains today for LGBTs,
  3. Windy City Times
    WindyCityTimes1 When straight people make us cry, in a GOOD way–WWII vet for same-sex marriage in Maine,
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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.


610 following


  • 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
  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?
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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?


0 following


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.
  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.”>
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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.


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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