A Theory On The Rise Of Tweetstorms

A blog post about Tweetstorms. How cute! Tweetstorms are definitely a thing. @pmarca has popularized them, and now it’s fascinating to see how many people on any given day will mimic the technique. A step further, many folks on Twitter or on the tech blogs are peeved by it and have called for it to stop and/or for Twitter to adjust the product so these missives don’t clog other peoples’ networks.

My stance is: There are no rules on Twitter, and tweetstorms are just fine by me. I can always unfollow anyone. That’s my two cents.

But today, I was curious as to why so many other people are adopting the nomenclature. Sure, there’s some mimicry going on, and I’m all for people expressing their thoughts in public — and if the Twitter interface and audience encourages more people to do that, then that’s fine by me. Beyond mimicry, though, I’ve got a hunch that something lurks deeper in the mind of the person creating said tweets, just as they’re about to type “1/….” — it is the concern, or even fear, that they will not be heard.

Going unheard can be an unsettling feeling. “Is there anybody out there?” “Ground Control to Major Tom.” I don’t have data to back up this claim, but I have noticed (anecdotally) that many people who share links in my feed don’t see too much interaction on those tweets. We don’t really know how many click through if links are present. Yes, we could all use trackable links (and many do), but I think there’s a reason Twitter hasn’t exposed these stats for the user — the results might be depressing to the content creator.

I will admit, I see some tweetstorms from others that are quite good, and I realize that I likely wouldn’t have read a blog post if the creator had laid out his/her thoughts in the “old school” method. For those who use Twitter, attention is so focused on the stream, that expecting someone to click through (usually, out of context) is a big ask relative to all the other content flowing in the stream that’s brand new and shinier.

Hence, tweetstorms. Those with thoughts who engage in this tactic may be calling their followers’ bluffs to unfollow them, but maybe they’d like to have their thoughts heard and don’t mind the few people who elect to unsubscribe. (Yes, I know you can “mute” people on Twitter, but I don’t think this will stop tweetstorms from entering your feed, regardless of author.)

Perhaps this is another subtle cut to the web. For me, I publish a niche blog on the web and rely on email and social networks to have that content reach its intended audience. Most often, people don’t click on my links, which isn’t a big deal to me — but maybe I’d think differently if I felt as if I wasn’t being heard. And, if more and more people start blogging this way (which would be great for Twitter, I believe), people will have visit blogs less and less. This seems to be the space Medium is trying to jam into, and they already have decent traffic harvesting signals and matching content via Twitter. Given the environment, those who publish from the web for their livelihood or business should be on warning that traffic is increasingly under control of the big social and interest networks online, and getting people to click out of those may actually get even tougher — and even then, Google and Facebook can easily tweak their algorithms to cause great changes for other publishers.

This fear of not being unheard may start with individuals on Twitter and work its way all the way up to some of the most venerable media brands. Therefore, we should expect more and more tweetstorms, where we can just unsubscribe from the author (if we so choose) and we should expect that the bar to clicking on a link and actually reading someone’s thoughts will go even higher. And, just like the old days, the best content will be king.