Tweet Dreams: A Q&A with Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone

Last month I was lucky to catch Biz Stone, Twitter Co-Founder sharing his thoughts on business and creativity while promoting his new book at London’s School of Economics. The audience listened as the humble and wonderfully inventive Stone recounted his experiences from young boy…

Last month I was lucky to catch Biz Stone, Twitter Co-Founder sharing his thoughts on business and creativity while promoting his new book at London’s School of Economics.

The audience listened as the humble and wonderfully inventive Stone recounted his experiences from young boy of a single parent family, to global entrepreneur worth $250 million.

It was clear that Stone has always been interested in the open exchange of information, after running one of the first well-read Blogger web logs and working on a groundbreaking podcasting project at Google.

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Stone said that you need emotional investment as a CEO of a company, and that you need to be a user of your own product to really understand how to improve it.

“I knew how to empathise and connect with our audience” he said.

He used Twitter right from the beginning, sending updates to his friends about his weekend plans, and reading what his network was up to.  He is also a regular user of his new application Jelly, which allows users to ask and answer questions with photos and videos.

Stone said it wasn’t until March 2007, at global conference SXSW that he realized how useful Twitter could be, as everyone was using the site to update on which talks and parties they were attending; “It was a fun toy that revealed itself as a profoundly important business”.

Over the years he has listened and learned from customers, letting them effectively write the strategy for new features and the growth of the tool. It was at the SXSW conference that Twitter users invented the hashtag (now used to categorize tweets around topics and events) to signify their presence at the event, and share thoughts with other attendants.

“We wanted to build a tool where the product was so good that we got people talking about the different ways you could use it,” he recalled.

Stone said he never expected Twitter to be used for such important global event like the Arab Spring – but was is quick to add that Twitter didn’t cause these events to happen, it was used as an alternative broadcasting tool aiding the spreading of useful information.

When asked about the future of marketing, Stone recounted Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, explaining that customers are looking for something more from brands than just information about what they need.

“Customers are looking for more meaning. The future of marketing is philanthropy for two reasons. It means customers will choose you over competitors, and you will attract key talent in your workforce.”

He also offered advice for anyone marketing a business using Twitter, “Be human, be authentic and helpful as it shows goodwill.”

It was clear that Biz Stone has a huge belief in social good, and spoke of his hopes for a more connected world. He ended his session saying he hopes the future of social media is that humanity can work together as one entity more, “to get things done at a much faster rate”.

The book (which I received a signed copy of – thanks Biz!) was a good easy read, with some important business lessons and some funny stories from the creative mind behind one of the world’s most visited websites.

 

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