I was still pretty new to the world of social media when this article was published in Vanity Fair called “America’s Tweethearts.” The article is allegedly an insight into how a handful of women built their Twitter empires. There are a few things I’d like to draw your attention to, apart from the “come hither” photo of the women all dressed in trench coats and high heels.
“Twitter doesn’t even require real sentences, only a continual patter of excessively declarative and abbreviated palaver.” (thank goodness, because my little woman brain can’t handle full sentences most of the time).
This one was really interesting:
Each day, these women speed easily across the Twitformation Superhighway on their iPhones and laptops, leaving droppings in their wake: “getting highlights before class,” “I hrd u had fun!,” “Wah, missing my twittr time!” They use a lot of “hashtags,” which is a way of identifying posts on a certain topic—like Twilight or Tiger’s mistresses—and often participate in chain-letter-style tweets, adding their haiku to such threads as OMGFacts. (Sample OMGs: “You’ll eat 35,000 cookies in your lifetime”; “banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories per hour.”) And somehow this fascinates millions of readers.
Even as new as I was, I had heard of Julia Roy before this article came out. She had already appeared on “top women of social media lists” like this one by Lee Odden from 2010. Noting that what she did could be described as “leaving droppings on Twitter” kind of bummed me out.
As it happens, this would not be the last time I’d encounter the argument that women are able to excel in social media because it’s so…well, social. Take this quote from a 2011 TechCrunch article: “Especially when it comes to social and shopping, women rule the Internet.” This article from GenConnect almost apologetically suggests that some women should appear more on lists like the Ad Age Power 150. Tied to all of this is the huge “mommy blogger” movement which is so powerful when it comes to baby product retailers. Recently Jeremiah Owyang also reported on a new movement called PANKS (professional Aunties, No Kids), again tied to how marketers can target women in the online world.
Aren’t women making inroads for any other reasons?
There’s nothing wrong with the conversation that indicates that women can succeed in social media because some women like to talk brands with their girlfriends or just plain like to talk. However, the way this conversation is carried out sometimes makes me wonder if the same exact wording could be used to describe a teenage girl and a 50-year-old woman, both of whom blog and use Twitter.
Also, we are missing some huge opportunities to celebrate women for things OTHER than talking or shopping. For example, we could celebrate women like Estrella Rosenberg, Ifdy Perez, Beth Cantrell, and Molly Cantrell-Craig, who are doing fabulous work in the not-for-profit world. Maybe we could talk about sharp marketing minds like Dawn Westerberg, Jeanette Baer, Mila Araujo, and Brandie McCallum. Maybe we could even talk about women who are powerhouses in the business world like Carol Roth and Nicole Fende, both of whom blog and tweet quite regularly.
We’re missing a real revolution
Even more than highlighting women who are using social media as a professional tool, we are missing an opportunity to shine the light on women who are using social media to call for and implement social change. This fascinating article, “Revolution, Women, and Social Media in the Middle East” appeared in the Huffington Post on January 27, 2012. The article details a conference where several women who had used Twitter and Facebook to express their opinions and spread information during the revolutions in Egypt and Libya were finally able to meet in person. These women, who have limited rights in their own countries, were able to use the social networks at their disposal to get the word out about their own situations and what was going on in their countries. One of the women notes, “I couldn’t have done this without social media. The world would not have known…”
Would you want to call what these women did on Twitter “droppings?” Would you want to say that they found their followers because of funny, trivial hashtags? I don’t think so.
Why are we not focusing more on women who are breaking the “talking and shopping” teenybopper stereotype?
Women Are Social. A Lot of Women Like To Shop. And?
The real question, of course, is why there seems to be a hesitation to highlight women who are powerful in what they do, not just in the numbers of followers they have. Beyond that, there is even less written about non-white, non-American women who are successful in the online world. Maybe we can work on changing that.
What do you think?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/philandpam/1485578432/ via Creative Commons