Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Getting Started with Twitter: A Smart Newbie's Perspective

As you know, I'm a big fan of serendipity. This morning, it struck again as I invited folks in the great city of Austin, TX to join me for coffee at one of my favorite spots, the Hideout. I had low expectations given the fact that I gave people less than 18 hours notice AND the fact that it was two days before Christmas. While we didn't get quantity, I got quality in spades with my friend, Michael Pearson and new friend, David Patton.

Why I mentioned "serendipity" is that David happens to be quite an interesting fellow. What intrigued me the most was the fact that he had just started on his Twitter adventure about six weeks ago so this was my opportunity to relive those early moments of "holy shit, this thing is a game changer" of Twitter. Since I didn't have an audio recorder, I went the old fashioned route and sent David six questions via e-mail to answer. Being a good doobie, he turned them around within a few hours.

For anyone that's new to Twitter, I REALLY like the way David is approaching the space. If I were to have a do over, I'd likely take an approach to Twitter that's similar to his.

1) Talk a little bit about your role at Hush and the jobs/paths that led you up to your current position.
My association with Hush began in late '90s as an initial investor, and subsequently, after helping secure several rounds of funding, as a director.

Starting and growing a real estate development company in Austin during the malaise of the savings and loan crisis, and a securities/investment firm in the latter part of the decade, provided much of the experience necessary to help guide Hush through the dot com meltdown.

More importantly, very early on we decided it was important to gain credibility with encryption experts, by publishing our source code, and with our customers, by offering swift, honest and detailed
customer service, often provided by our CTO, Brian Smith. This was completely uncharacteristic of the industry at the time, and it built a high level of trust between the company, our industry peers and our subscribers. And this trust is the foundation of our business, because without it the technology means nothing.

2) When did you get started on Twitter? What was the impetus for joining?
Uncharacteristically, the early phase passed passed me by. But the Twitterstorms which erupted during the Hudson River plane crash, and after the Iranian election voter uprising, got me to take notice that something had changed in the way we communicate as a society. News procurement and provision would never be the same.

3) What has been your greatest “aha” moment on Twitter?

There were two. The first was replacing decade old website habits with my real-time Twitter timeline. It didn't take long to realize Google is a horrible search engine for up to the minute news. And
even once cutting edge sites, updated daily, began to appear stale. If it's happening now, it's streaming on Twitter.

The second was the realization that the Cluetrain had picked up steam and was making speed right down Madison Avenue. This was a game changer. Who buys anything anymore without reading customer reviews? Who went to see Bruno? James Cameron should pay a portion of Avatar's box office receipts to Robert Scoble and [Mike] Arrington.

4) What do you find most annoying about Twitter?

Not much. It's all pretty fascinating to me. Democracy can be messy. Democratization of industries can be downright ugly, and that's what we're seeing. But like the dust, sweat and noise of travel, it's all part of reaching a better place!

5) Talk a little bit about your follow strategy.

This can be tricky.  To get right to the crux of any matter you have to go where the action is, so I right off the bat I followed almost all of the employees at Twitter, listened to the buzz, followed who they followed and who followed them, and gradually got a better feel for the etiquette and protocols of the Titterverse. Scoble followed me then you followed me, so I said, wow, anyone can engage anyone else here, and that was key. I made it a point to follow, and to be followed by, anyone who genuinely wanted to engage in a conversation that was meaningful to both of us.

6) Words of wisdom (this is the freeform section)
  • Listen. It takes a lot of patience, but you can learn so much more by paying attention to what's going on around you than by interrupting a conversation.
  • Give. Link people who may gain something by knowing each other, without expecting anything in return. It will come back around (The twizzang effect!).
  • Say "Yes" to hyper-caffeinated, outgoing marketing types who randomly arrange early morning coffee tweetups ;)
What about you? Do you remember your first few weeks on Twitter? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.


  1. This is awesome Aaron. I love when smart people dive into Twitter and just get it. Good for you David and I hope you keep growing, learning and start to teach people a thing or two.

  2. Derek - amen. And thanks for stopping by!

  3. I just me David at the SMC meeting last week. He seemed like a sharp guy.

  4. Wesley - David really is a sharp guy. I met him once (and now chat w/ him semi-regularly on Twitter. I like him a lot.