Twitter Rooms to Improve Activist Communication (Not Only for Trump)
A “Twitter room” lets groups of up to 50 people work together to have a larger voice in a common cause. A recent article in Politico described how Twitter rooms have been used to support Trump (see The Secret Rooms of Trump Nation), but they could work for other causes as well (including mine, access to healthcare). Since we could not find clear instructions for starting and using Twitter rooms, we published the missing information here.
A Twitter room provides a secret channel of communication for a group of people with Twitter accounts — separate from ordinary tweets but integrated with Twitter. The members of the group don’t all need to follow each other on Twitter, but it is helpful if most of them do. That way the group can massively retweet (or Like) each others’ best tweets, and similarly reward favorable tweets from outside the group. The members follow each other and also have their own followers, often in related organizations — and make their own decisions to retweet what is likely to interest their followers.
Twitter rooms are based on group direct messages, which Twitter introduced in early 2015. Anyone on Twitter can send a private message to up to 50 other people who follow the sender on Twitter (or who have chosen to accept direct messages from anyone). That creates the group; then anyone in it can send private messages to the whole group, and also can add new members. These messages (up to 10,000 characters each, not limited to 140) allow coordination and encouragement of tweets and retweets by a community.
Communication tools can help activists spread the word. But successful movements also need political sanity — or most people will see that there’s nothing good in it for them. A movement must deliver real benefit. To get on the right side of history, listen to all that’s going on, not just a piece of it.
Advantages of Twitter Rooms
- You are part of a community and beginners get feedback from others right away.
- Anyone can be heard in public life, as often as they want.
- Many people are reluctant to speak on public issues, because they fear that they don’t know enough and could make factual mistakes on the details. Retweeting greatly reduces this problem, because the original author took responsibility for getting the details right. But if you don’t know and trust the source, do some checking to avoid spreading made-up “news”; online tools like www.snopes.com/ can help.
- Different organizations can work together in the same Twitter room or different rooms, reducing the problem of silos.
- Ordinarily most peoples’ tweets are rarely retweeted; but a well-functioning Twitter room can amplify its members’ voice dozens of times when appropriate (instead of zero retweets you may get 20 or 30, and reach hundreds of new people). Similarly the room can reward outside tweets from anywhere, retweeting important action alerts, events, announcements, reminders, articles, photos, videos, and other communications, often giving them much more prominence than they would have had otherwise.
- Members of a room can set meeting times for interactive discussion — or skip meetings entirely and participate whenever convenient for them, using their smartphone or any computer.
- It’s easy to see who is retweeting a lot from the group, creating a natural measure of contribution and status that members can strive for if they wish.
- Twitter direct messages can now be up to 10,000 characters — they are no longer limited to 140, as tweets are.
- Aside from politics, a Twitter room is a handy, reasonably confidential way for a group to keep in touch, in some ways better than Facebook.
- Besides having smartphone or computer access, there’s no cost to use Twitter rooms. Very little data is used to retweet (even if you retweet large images, or long podcasts or videos), since you are only retweeting links to large files that are already hosted online.
How to Start a Twitter Room
You can start a room with just a few people, since you or any other member of the room can add more people at any time (up to the limit of 50 members at one time). You must start a new Twitter room by adding at least 2 members besides yourself.
To start a Twitter room, just send a group direct message to the people you want to start the room with. They must be following you on Twitter (or have set their account to accept direct messages from anyone) — since otherwise you could not send them a direct message at all, a restriction Twitter uses to control spam. Then everyone who receives your message is automatically a member of the conversation, the Twitter “room” you just created, since they can simply message the group. They don’t have to do anything to join the group (the room), but can leave the conversation easily if they wish (as with a Facebook group, you become a member without any action on your part). Technically, sending that direct message is all you have to do to create a Twitter room. The rest is human leadership.
To read, reply to, or create a group message, click the Messages icon (which looks like an envelope) — either from your phone, or from www.twitter.com on a computer.
Everyone in the group (the room) can receive messages from everyone else in the room, even if neither followers the other on Twitter. But it helps if members of Twitter room usually do follow each other.
Anyone you send that message to can add others to the group direct message conversation (the Twitter room); the new members must be following the person who adds them (or have set their account to accept direct messages from anyone), but do not need to be following you. Anyone in the group can similarly add others, up to the maximum group size of 50. And anyone in the group can block people, and remove them from the group.
This isn’t ideal for governance, for orderly conflict resolution. So it’s important to select people for the room who can treat each other with respect. If a serious dispute occurs (such as some members suspecting that others have infiltrated from the opposition — or major personality conflicts that interfere with the mission), it might be best to start one or more new groups with trusted people.
For detailed instructions on how to send group direct messages, see http://support.twitter.com/articles/14606.
Security: Direct Messaging for Private Communication Is Better Than ‘@’ Tweets
Be careful of trying to restrict personal or confidential information by beginning a tweet with ‘@’ and a Twitter handle (account name). Use a direct message instead. With the ‘@’ tweet, you can easily make a serious mistake and accidentally send the information to all your Twitter followers.
How serious? A single case of exactly this Twitter mistake, by former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner, had consequences that likely include the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.
Even with direct messages, Twitter privacy is limited. If you need better security, use a system like the Signal app, which offers end-to-end encryption, and open-source code that can be publicly inspected for mistakes or deliberate back doors. And know that even Signal isn’t perfect; some new malware can take over the entire phone and see everything the owner sees.
- Be aware that Twitter changes rapidly — and most of the news stories and blog posts about group direct messages that show up in your searches today include obsolete information. So the best source for information about how to use Twitter is http://support.twitter.com. Twitter does not use the word “room,” however.
- Unlike Facebook, Twitter lets you have multiple accounts — and the Twitter app makes it easy to switch between them. But when using a Twitter room, always use it from the same account. This can be a problem if you receive an email alert of a Twitter direct message message, and simply reply to it on email, but at that time your phone happens to be set to a different Titter account.
- Optionally a Twitter room can use its own hashtag, for a quick look at where and how well its tweets have propagated.
For More Information
- Even social-media experts did not know about the pro-Trump Twitter rooms until recently: see ‘Something fishy’ is going on with Trump’s Twitter account, researchers say — and also The Secret Rooms of Trump Nation, noted above.
- Manipulating U.S. elections through social media: The Fake Americans Russia Created to Influence the Election.
- An early use of Twitter rooms (but not called that): Twitter’s Group DMs are the Internet’s best new secret meeting place.
- Trump’s Twitter feed: In August 2017 The Washington Post created a bot updated every 5 minutes to show you the news as Trump sees it on Twitter, http://twitter.com/trumps_feed; for info see Now you can see what Donald Trump sees every time he opens Twitter.
- Proposed use of Twitters rooms for community building: see The Global Town Square. But Twitter did not add the suggested features to its software.
- Growing use of social media for information warfare, often by spreading massive lies to take advantage of confusion and chaos: see RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War. It’s not only Russia. We should not forget that competing empires and other interests are using social media for large-scale disinformation today.
Please suggest any corrections or suggestions — by commenting here, or privately by direct message to @AgeTreatment on Twitter. This document is a work in progress, and will be updated as we learn more.