“Social networks are too fickle for activists to depend on for media attention,” writes Jenée Desmond-Harris at Vox.

To understand how Ferguson and the stories around it captivated the mainstream media, it’s essential to understand Black Twitter. “Black Twitter” is the somewhat controversial shorthand for the conversations that happen among African-Americans on Twitter. African-Americans use the social network in greater numbers than members of any other racial group, and have earned a reputation for steering Twitter’s trending topics.

In a 2014 piece explaining the phenomenon, the Washington Post’s Soraya Nadia McDonald called Black Twitter “a virtual community ready to hashtag a response to cultural issues.” In some cases this means sharing inside jokes that send African-American cultural references viral. In others, like this one, it means uniting as a potent force to force issues of race and racism to the top of the national agenda.

Whether or not you embrace the term (there are legitimate concerns about seeing African-American users as a distinct population, and questions about who exactly falls under the label — everyone who’s black, or only people who participate in certain conversations?). The fact is, black people have influence on Twitter that they don’t in the traditional media.

Read the rest at Vox.