When used effectively, Twitter can change the course of a company’s future. The most important thing to remember about Twitter is that people are generally more responsive on Twitter than any other medium: LinkedIn can be spammy, Emails can be ignored easily, and sending a cold text would be at best invasive and at worst creepy.
Twitter sits in the middle of these options.
Many VC investors live on the platform because there is a healthy collaborative culture of knowledge-sharing and support. There are occasionally heated arguments that can devolve into unpleasantness, but overall, people are generally supportive.
Being good at twitter requires two skills:
- Finding the right conversations to contribute to, and
- Actually contribute to the conversation in a constructive way.
This tweet is an example of a VC giving founders an opportunity to pitch their startup:
Try to imagine a situation like this unfolding not on twitter: a venture capitalist spontaneously asking for pitches from potential startups with no warm introduction required.
The hardest part is seeing these kinds of tweets and getting responses. This requires work on the part of the user to curate the group of people who you are following and actually contribute to the conversation. The question becomes, how do you put yourself and your company in the position to see and engage with this kind of content?
- Take care of your garden. Think of your Twitter feed as a garden: the more you plant (follow) the more bountiful your garden will become. However, if you don’t prune your plants (unfollow people), your feed will become a mess and you will look like a self-promoter. On top of that, you need to water your plants (like and reply) to tweets and profiles to keep yourself visible.
- Don’t use hashtags. They make you look spammy. The reality is that the new ‘topics’ part of the Twitter feed recognizes certain words and puts tweets into the topic to begin with. In other words, writing the tweet: “We are looking for more diversity in startups” will yield the same visibility as “We are looking for more #diversity in #startups”, except one will look ugly and the other won’t.
- Find people who you are interested in (reputable VC’s) and look at who they are following. Most VC’s put their funds in their bio’s. Look at who smart investors are following and follow those people! People who have a smaller following shouldn’t be ignored, they should be prioritized! If you see a Partner at a VC fund that has a relatively small following compared to his or her peers, she will probably have less inbound than say, Jason Calcanis.
- Use the new “interests” feature and follow “Startups and Venture Capital” option
How to Contribute to Twitter conversation?Once you find the right conversation and ‘crowd’ on Twitter, it’s important to actually produce worthwhile content on the platform to boost your own following. This may be intimidating and/or overwhelming for a lot of people (myself included) because there is a fear of bad actors (trolls) and pushback from your ideas. The reality is that there is a very small minority of people who are unpleasant, particularly in the startup world on twitter. If you are Mark Cuban or a celebrity, that’s another discussion. But for the average person looking to discuss startup leadership and tools, that probably won’t happen to you :)
Henry McNamara, partner (and very good Twitter user) at Great Oaks VC, says the following about using Twitter effectively:
“My advice is to interact, reply, link articles and insights and generally converse on twitter with investors and fellow founders about areas you're passionate about. That will allow your thoughts and ideas to speak for themselves and allow you to stand out and build a reputation based on a bit of substance. Just reaching out to connect on twitter without conveying your thinking, opinions and circles of competence is not a good use of time in my view.”
This is an important distinction to make: Twitter is not Linkedin. The audiences are different and are there for different reasons: Twitter is the only place where someone can read a 10 tweet thread from Lenny Rachitsky on the keys to running a SaaS business and teletubby memes in the same 2 minute period. People go to Twitter to learn and enhance their careers, but they are also there to have fun. It’s important to remember that before spamming VC’s with cold messages throughout the day.
Here is a tweet that is geared towards community building.
Jai provided a unique insight but ended the tweet with recognition of a large group of people (early stage employees). Regardless of the engagement it received, it was an uplifting and generally positive point of view. Negativity and snark does not get rewarded: positivity and inclusion does.
Here is an example of using humor and/or memes. There is nothing inherently ‘valuable’ about this tweet, but it does resonate with people who have exposure to startups.
- Twitter is an amazing platform when used effectively
- It takes a lot of time and work to set yourself up for success
- Don't be a taker/asker--give and you shall receive
Written by James Hottensen
James joined Capbase after working at Great Oaks Venture Capital in New York where he worked on various fin-tech and consumer investments as an Associate, including Capbase and Golden. He previously worked at Tentrr, a Series A startup in New York, leading Strategy and Partnerships.
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