Social Media Advice from Twitter Co-Founder: Start Slow
November 8, 2010
By John Dodge
Twitter co-founder Isaac "Biz" Stone is as irreverent as a social media icon gets. Asked last month on the exhibit floor at a Schwab investment advisor conference what "excited" him, his response went this way:
"The social media booth is competing with the shoe shine booth and we are totally beating them. I'm pretty excited about that," quipped Stone, now 36 and relatively-old for social media rock star. He shared the spotlight with Facebook co-founder and venture capitalist Chris Hughes, who turns 27 later this month and looks like he has yet to buy his first razor. Hughes is scarcely six months older than his former colleague and Harvard roommate, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's principal founder.
Fact is Stone has plenty to be excited about. Five months shy of its fourth birthday, Twitter, albeit raw and unharnessed, is a marketer's paradise. Today, it officially boasts 160 million registered users (some say 175 million), who on average generate 90 million tweets every day. And almost 400,000 new accounts are being added every 24 hours, according to Stone.
So what does this irreverent showman tell an audience of conservative investment advisors clamoring to know how they can use Twitter?
"Start slow," says Stone, who basically repeats the advice given on Twitter's web site. Here's the passage verbatim.
"You don't have to build a web page to surf the web and you don't have to tweet to enjoy Twitter. Whether you tweet 100 times a day or never, you still have access to the voices and information surrounding what interests you. You can contribute, or just listen in and retrieve up to the second information. Some people never tweet, they simply use Twitter as a way to get the latest information on their interests."
It's good advice and helps ease the worst of techno-phobes into Twitter.
As for what really excites him, Stone eventually got serious and his answer offers insight into where Twitter is heading and expresses his affinity for good works. I don't have his words exactly, but he was jazzed that "five billion mobile phone users" could reach impoverished areas such as Haiti and countries in Africa where broadband services are spotty.
But don't mistake Stone's altruism for disinterest in Twitter's commercial potential. On Monday, Twitter in partnership with Hootsuite began a limited trial that places "promoted tweets" (paid ads or "adverts" as they are called) into 900,000 users' timelines, the area where tweets appear chronologically. Twitter was careful to label this an experiment as it tries to gauge the platform's commercial potential.
Previously, promoted tweets appeared only in "trending topics" or came up via search.
An excellent feature about how Twitter got to where it is today appeared late last week in the New York Times and reflects its deepening business orientation. The news in the story was that co-founder Evan Williams "demoted" himself from CEO and handed his duties to chief operating officer Dick Costolo, who's charged with implementing a plan to make money.
As Twitter sorts out its money model, business users for now can rip a page out of JetBlue's book. The airline uses Twitter for a variety of marketing and customer service functions. Once Stone was on a JetBlue flight and up came tweet "We have tasty smoked almonds. Try some." I'm sure he did. (See video.)
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention Twitter's technology although Stone emphasizes that social media will be everywhere in the future that technology is merely a "tool." Perhaps so, but there would not be Twitter without it.
To address serious performance and reliability issues in the face of such explosive growth, Twitter in July opened its first data center in the Salt Lake City area to gain direct control over its servers and network. And it has plans to open more given that 200 million users is all but certain by year's end. The Twitter Engineering blog is a great place to read about Twitter's technology.
Meanwhile, Stone is having fun as he careens toward the unimaginable age of 40. Down deep, he knows Twitter is big, really big.
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