Twitter isn't a blogging service, so let's kill the tweetstorm

There’s a new way of posting on Twitter that’s gaining in popularity – The Tweetstorm™. Coined by BuzzFeed (as far as I know), a Tweetstorm is a message or rant that spans multiple tweets, with each tweet commonly being prefixed by #/. BuzzFeed describes it as such:

Beginning with a simple “1/”, Andreessen began to launch off on blog post-length lectures, 140 characters at a time. Many are 10 or 15 tweets long and shot off in rapid succession.

The multi-tweet is, by all measures, a perfectly normal bit of Twitter behavior; sometimes an important thought or piece of news runs over 140 characters. There are even platforms, like TwitLonger, which allow users to attach a longer message to tweets to work around the 140 character rule. However, what sets Andreessen’s tweetstorm™ apart from the conventional multi-tweet is any indication of anticipated length. Instead, a tweetstormer™ gives no real indication how long it’s going to take and assumes that the reader is more than OK with this.

Let me be honest for one second – I don’t like it. It’s dumb, and it defeats the entire purpose of Twitter. Obviously Marc Andreessen feels differently than me, because he’s a master of Tweetstorms:

1/Conventional view of how to value companies: (1) Analyze company + its financials + future cash flows; (2) Calculate correct valuation.

— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) May 7, 2014

9/Since we are social animals, the challenge of actually standing outside of herd is brutally hard. Pressure to conform is constant/intense.

— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) May 7, 2014

Twitter is good for tidbits of information – a status update, a link, or your new hair color. I often think of it as quality control on an assembly line – many workers stand around a conveyor belt, picking out items that aren’t up to snuff. Not every worker finds every low quality item, but there are enough workers standing at this belt that at the end of the line almost all of the low quality items have been removed.

Assembly workers

Twitter should be used in the same way. Scroll around, peruse, window shop. When something grabs your attention – read it, review it, click the link, whatever you need to do. You’re not going to see every single thing in your feed nor should you. If something’s important, someone down the line (whom are the rest of the users on Twitter) might see it and read it. At some point if the information is important enough you’ll hear about it through retweets or another communication medium.

Using it for anything more than that doesn’t even make any sense. Each tweet should stand on it’s own with it’s own context; they should be short and succinct. Posting 12 consecutive 140 character messages and expecting your user to read and follow along is asking too much. The user can’t browse over it and quickly know what’s there – they have to stop and read a blog post worth of text to figure out what’s being posted. A smart man once said:

Understand the limitations of the communication medium you are using and know when to escalate to another, more appropriate one.

Jeff’s absolutely right. Know when to elevate from Twitter into a more appropriate communication medium – Facebook, an email, or a blog post. Please, just don’t blog on Twitter.