Tiara Willis & Shaniah Bell Share Tips On Building Community Through Twitter Spaces

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
There were only two things that got me through the 2020-2021 pandemic lockdowns:  incredible music releases (like Chloe x Halle and Kehlani) and the glimpses of Black joy that social media brought me. Through everything — lockdowns, the world generally being on fire, etc. —  Black creators are constantly able to shine, grow, and give us good content. Even as they navigate spaces that don’t welcome them and as they face adversities in receiving credit and proper compensation for their work, Black creators continue to show up and show out. And one platform where Black folks consistently shine and spark necessary conversations is Twitter. 
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If you’re an OG user of the app, you probably know all about Black Twitter. If you’re not familiar (where have you been?) Black Twitter is like a big group chat with your cousins discussing various topics, memes, and inside jokes that only Black people will understand. Black folks are the best part of Twitter, and out of the many tools the app has introduced, Twitter Spaces — where you can live audio chat with multiple people — has produced some of the most intriguing conversations.
Some of my favorite spaces to date have been about fashion events and runway shows, beauty and skincare tips, and music reviews. Two Black creators who have used Spaces in a unique and consistent way are licensed esthetician Tiara Willis, who is known for debunking skin care myths and sharing helpful tips with her community (she was the first to host and sell out a ticketed Twitter Space on monetizing as a creator), and Shaniah Bell, a makeup creator who started #SpacesGotTalent which discussed her love of music by inviting people to showcase their talent with her co-host Ant Walker. She also partnered with Topicals, a Black-owned skincare brand for ticketed Spaces. Both creators have used Spaces to grow their brands and create an engaged community. 
Here’s what Tiara and Shaniah told Unbothered about how Twitter Spaces has contributed to their community growth online.
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Unbothered: What drew you to Twitter to start sharing information about your fields?
Tiara Willis: “With other platforms [it’s] about your appearance and on Twitter it's almost like a public diary where you can talk and write as much as you want without feeling the pressure of creating content or having to look presentable. It’s been better to create a community and I appreciate that aspect of actually being able to talk to people one-on-one or start a larger conversation. Whereas on other platforms the interaction is more about the comments and likes on your post. But on Twitter, you can start one tweet, and then that bridges out and it creates a forum.”
Shaniah Bell: I already had a Twitter but it was just for fun. It wasn’t until 2015 I started posting my makeup looks. Then I began to follow and engage with other makeup artists and creatives. That sparked the start of me finding my community and friends within the app.”
What advice can you share with people looking to grow a community on Twitter?
TW: “First thing I would say is don't expect people to reach out to you. You reach out to them. Start conversations with other people, follow people that are like-minded, interact with their content, and then they would interact with yours. As you build those relationships and network with other people on the app, their audience will now connect with your audience.”
SB: “Sticking to a niche works for some people, but for me, it just doesn't work. I get so bored and I need constant excitement. So my best advice is just to do it all [if that] works best for you. Don’t care so much about the views and the likes because that's going to make you hate what you do. For instance, I was doing a lot of makeup content and I honestly started to hate it. I want to do what I love and what feels most authentic to me. And doing a bunch of trends other people are doing is just not authentic to me”.
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As an early adopter of Spaces, how did you go about hosting your first event?
TW: I slowly started to introduce my audience to the behind-the-scenes of being an influencer and how to grow. So I had this idea that maybe my audience would be interested in a paid event where I could speak to them one-on-one and really share a lot of behind-the-scenes knowledge. It was 200 tickets for $10 each and they sold out overnight. I basically talked about how to become a six-figure influencer and how in the Black influencer space [there’s] such a huge gap when it comes to payment and just knowledge is harder for us.”
SB: I used to do talent shows on Periscope for fun all the time and people could see my face and my talent. But they deleted the app and implemented [elements of it] on Twitter. Fast forward, I was just checking out the feature as a joke and then I asked my friend Ant Walker to co-host [a Spaces] with me at the height of the pandemic and it just bloomed from there. Everyone was bored and at home. We needed something to do and distract us.” 
What tips can you share on how to get started using Spaces?
TW: Create a spreadsheet or outline of the topics and points you want to talk about. In between segments, invite people on stage to speak and ask questions — that way it’s a conversation and interactive.”
SB: “Know what you're going to talk about before you start because your viewers may get bored if you're just pausing in between. I mean, you can definitely have our spaces where you just talk about anything, which is okay too. But you want to give some excitement to your listeners.”

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