By now almost everybody knows that Marc Andreessen has taken Twitter by storm. By Tweetstorm, that is. Marc seems to single handedly have changed all conventions in Tweeting by dropping 7-10 rapid Tweets in a related stream-of-consciousness labeling each Tweet with a number and a slash before it.
Fred Wilson wrote a Tweetstorm and then did a blog post on the topic. I’ll address his questions at the end of this post.
While Fred’s post makes sense, I honestly think Tweetstorming isn’t Marc’s real magic on Twitter. So I’d like to weigh in with what I believe is.
Marc Andreessen was a prolific and much read blogger for a brief period of time. People religiously read, shared and pontificated on his work. This was pre social media. And then out of nowhere he abruptly stopped. And from there Ben Horowitz became the amazing blogger of record at a16z. Of course they then added Chris Dixon, Ben Evans and many other great public voices.
I never asked Marc why he stopped blogging but I presume it is some combo of having started a venture capital firm (which you might guess takes a bit of time) and also allowing some air time for his then-less-well-known compadre.
For much of the first few years of Twitter Marc was also notably absent. He had many followers and very few Tweets. Then out of nowhere he seemed to be on fire. All of the wisdom he used to drop on the blog was now flowing publicly, in realtime, with almost no editing ability, on Twitter.
Even before the Tweetstorm phenomenon, Marc was favoriting, RT’ing, sparring with people, @replying to random folk who reached out to him. In the first 2 weeks I even saw a few people on Twitter say, “Is that the real Marc Andreessen?” He was writing to people. Many people. Any people.
He was doing what many public figures fail to do on Twitter: He was engaging.
I am often asked about social media by those who want to know how they should best do it professionally. My advice always follows along the line of:
- Twitter is part media distribution platform. If you have a blog, it is incredibly useful to be able to share your posts on Twitter to drive readership. It is reinforcing – Twitter can drive blog readership and blog readership can drive Twitter followers. They are synergistic.
- But. And this is a big BUT. It shouldn’t be a one-way media publishing platform. People want YOU. They want to talk, question, debate, cajole and get to know you as a human. They want authenticity. They want engagement. Some people quickly become just media spammers and that is vomitous.
Kara Swisher gets this. If you follower her Tweets late night on Twitter you’ll notice that she replies to a lot of random folks who @mention her. Many other public people don’t get this.
This to me is the real magic of Marc Andreessen on Twitter. Not replying to anybody on Twitter is like speaking on stage at a conference and then sneaking out the back without shaking any hands. People want to see you speak but they REALLY want to meet you. Even if just for 60 seconds. I almost always stay for 30-60 minutes in the halls after I speak.
Not commenting or engaging on Twitter is like having a blog but never replying to commenters. People come to your blog to engage with you. Fred Wilson is such a popular blogger precisely because he has built a community around his blog posts where people turn up for their morning coffee, chats with friends and a quick chance to build rapport with Fred. To get on his radar screen.
Should CEOs be Social?
The topic of whether leaders or CEOs should engage through social media is often discussed. I saw this much-shared post on the topic just yesterday. It says that less than 6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are active on Twitter.
From the post
A study by Brandfog found that 75 percent of Americans surveyed agree that CEO participation in social media leads to better leadership.
77 percent of Americans said that C-suite executives who engage on social media create more transparency for the brand, and 80 percent agreed that social media has become an essential aspect of PR and communications strategy for C-Suite executives.
That sounds right to me. Transparency. Trust. Authenticity. Brand. John Legere of T-Mobile has become the poster child for this and people seem to love him for this.
Of course a CEO needs to be cautious and probably should have a PR person review Tweets before they go out if he/she isn’t already PR savvy. But he/she should be authentic, not scripted.
As my friend Brian Solis once told me “PR stands for ‘public relations’ not ‘press release’.”
So to Fred’s questions …
1/ Is Tweetstorming something unique and different than blogs, tumblr, normal social media? Yes. It is real-time, stream-of-consciousness, unscripted, mostly un-edited discussions. It’s more akin to the chat rooms and discussion forums of old. And people want to weigh in and engage.
2/ Should Tweetstorming be productized into Twitter? Absofuckinglutely. And it should have been done years ago. It has been clear to many of us for years that Twitter needed a conversation ability. Many companies have tried to build a layer around Twittter or build it into their own products. Twitter needs to build this. This way we can have real discussions on Twitter that don’t distract those who don’t want a deep dive.
3/ Should 3rd parties build this functionality if Twitter doesn’t? No. Fred actually asked if they “should be allowed to” and that I could answer as “yes.” But would they be SMART to? #NotAChance. Twitter has made it clear that they don’t value ecosystem partners. So building this feature would only be worthwhile if you have no commercial interests in it and if you don’t mind when Twitter eventually wants to replace you – because they will. I have at least 2 portfolio companies that wanted to build discussion forums into Twitter years ago (one actually built then scrapped it) even before a Tweetstorm was a thang. I told them it would be a waste. Twitter would build it when they were ready.
I hope that time is now.