Blog Post

Networking: How to Work a Twitter Party

Networking has always been a high art in business. Just ask Susan Roane, my mentor and author of the seminal tome, “How to Work a Room.” (I know a handful of VCs and startup kings on Sand Hill Road who have her book tucked into a drawer.) I’ve been showcasing Roane’s lessons for founders in my Found|READ series, “What They Don’t Teach You At Stanford Business School.”

By now it’s time to address the latest, and arguably the most powerful, networking tool in any founders’ arsenal: Twitter. It’s simple. If you’re not “tweeting,” you’re missing half the conversation. Just ask Sarah Lacy. (How different Lacy’s now-infamous SXSW interview of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg might have been had she been plugged into the tweets flying around the conference room floor!) Don’t know how to use Twitter? No sweat. Here are my 8 Tips for How to Work a Twitter Party.
(Photo credit: SXSW Tweeters celebrating before the ill-fated Zuckerberg interview.)

First things first: For founders, the goal of Twittering isn’t to tell people what we ate for lunch, but to get technology influencers — like Dave McClure, Mike Arrington or Guy Kawasaki — to read and respond to our Twitter feeds. In Twitter nomenclature, this is called “following.”

1. Don’t be afraid to Tweet above your head. McClure is an Alpha Tweeter. One tweet from Dave is like a TechCrunch link two years ago. But you’re no one, so you’ll have to tweet Dave five times to get him to reciprocate, and do something really interesting for him to “follow” your feed. Reciprocity is also a must. Guy Kawasaki, a top Twitter-er, takes this to the extreme, following every Tweeter who follows him. So do I. Use text message updates to keep tabs on those tweeting you.

2. Watch your Twitter ratios. Spammers have a bad follower-to-following ratio, so don’t randomly follow 20, 200 or 2,000 people without some Twittering under your belt. Similarly if you’re twittering a little too substantively, or have a banal topic, then expect to have a horrible updates-to-follower ratio. (my updates-to-followers ratio is bad because I tweet about FICO scores, a topic so dull that my “ABC News” segment on YouTube only has 12 views.)

3. Leverage what’s going on. If you knew HP would buy EDS a week ago or a month ago, then tweet and claim credit. I’m not joking, people. Do this. Did you walk in on a powerSet 2.0 pitch at Peet’s on University Ave.? Twitter that too.

4. Move your Twitter conversation(s) off-line. Good meet-ups can start with Twitter marketing. Good examples include Startup School or Sarah’s book-signing in San Francisco. Twitter loves Y Combinator and vice versa! Tweet your friends to organize a pre-party (like a breakfast at Fraiche) and voila! One day prior to your event, and the RSVP list on Facebook is 50 percent over capacity.

5. Migrate your real-world conversation to Twitter. At ad-tech, I was with Oren Michels, Scott Rafer, Owen Thomas and others. During post-conference parties, people tweeted back-and-forth other constantly. What does this do? It stimulates more face-to-face conversation! Indeed, working the Twitter party makes the real party you’re at better, bigger and better-documented.

6. Time your tweets. A great man once told me: “Be a vacation in your interactions with people.” He meant: “Don’t tax your conversation partners.” Is reading your Twitter feed a part-time job, or a little beach break that people can take from right inside their cube at work? For maximum impact, release your tweets with the time of day in mind. News-related tweets fly in the morning. Post-lunch tweets should be on the lighter side.

7. Pre-write some of your material. There is nothing wrong with pre-composing a few impromtu tweets. Think improv comedians don’t prepare? So don’t post stream of consciousness to your Twitter. And whatever you do, don’t tweet with a buzz on.

8. Work the Twitter Room for product development. A product manager for pbWiki, Kris, was recently using Twitter to collect ideas for product tweaks. So I chimed in with a tweet requesting that updates to my company’s 400 pbWiki pages be distributed via email, but only to those who’ve actually edited those pages. Hey Dave Weekly (founder of pbWiki), did you know your employees work the Twitter Party for your benefit?

Written by Larry Chiang, founder of, which helps college students improve their credit ratings. He is also a frequent contributor to Found|READ.

37 Responses to “Networking: How to Work a Twitter Party”

  1. @RyanKuder Just read your 8:16am comment at 12:54pm, so,
    (1) my correction, I was second to post a twitter party
    (2) you’re right: online + offline = smoother conversation (or screening process)

    definition: ‘Twitter party’ is defined as when three or more are gathered, so post them below


  2. Post your twitter parties in the comments — I’ll start.

    Silicon Valley Twitterers will be meeting up at Nola’s on June 11th at 6:30. Are you in?

    @RyanGraves ‘Art of Start’ twitter study party
    @cesar Learned about 800 Brazos St via twitter “Coworking” facility, got an intro to @JulieGomoll and Yelped it
    @sogrady thx for RedMonk blog post
    @jeffbeckham @mackCollier @brad_king @jdlasica Leared of SXSW panel pitch before Hugh Forest

  3. Larry, I think you’re spot on that the combination between online networking and offline networking is powerful. I use Twitter to meet a lot of new people, like a cocktail party. Following up in person makes that first meeting flow a lot smoother. For example, I’m looking forward to meeting you tomorrow night at the Silicon Valley Tweetup. Anyone else in Silicon Valley is welcome to join us for real world networking at Nola’s in Palo Alto:

  4. stochasticresonance

    No one is going to do deals on twitter, but you usually get a chance to do a deal because of your interests, abilities and personality, which you can present on twitter. (It can also definitely kill deals.)

    Twitter is sort of like a blog (on crack and steroids), but twitter is much more, because tweets can also be directed.

    You can’t just tweet about what you are ‘doing in business’ and expect to have any impact. Twitter is as much about who you are tweeting @, and probably more importantly, who is tweeting @ you, as it is about what you are tweeting.

    Most people don’t really ‘get’ twitter yet. Seth Godin ‘gets’ blogging, but Seth doesn’t get twitter yet. ( I love Seth’s blog, but why would I follow that on twitter when I get the same thing in my reader?

    Think of twitter like a big party with lots of different people having lots of different conversations. You can overhear anyone you want (assuming they don’t make their tweets all private), and interject at any time. Just like at a real party, the way you interject, who you do this with and what you say, can potentially make you new friends or make you look like a jackass.

    I’m fairly new to twitter and blogging (mostly because I spent the last few years programming web 2.0 instead of participating in it) but I think I finally ‘get’ it. Got it?

  5. I still subscribe to the concept, Tweet to your own devices. If you want to use it for business, use it for business. If you want to use it for pleasure, then do so. Being too concerned with the “ramifications” of each Tweet takes away from the service, in my opinion. Twitter was designed for state “What are you doing?”, it wasn’t “What are you doing in business?”

    What I do agree with completely is how you use Twitter will have a direct correlation to who wants to Twitter interact with you and follow you in that particular medium. Overall, it should be based on your own needs and goals, if not, why bother doing it at all?

  6. This turns something that should be fun into a burden. It distances you from face to face interaction (that is talking to a person!). A person could fill her entire waking life with updating her social networks. It’s dessert, not the main course, of social interaction.

  7. Great article Larry…and dont let anyone rib you about tweeting about your FICO score.

    High FICO scores are very rare and are important when credit is tight as it is now. (Try getting your home refinanced or floating a business expansion idea to your banker with a low FICO score nowadays)

    twitter: ondemandbeat

  8. Toolonginbiz

    Totally agree! Twitter, mySpace and all those other services are really en vogue, fancy, freaky and hot – zeitgeist. You can’t simply ignore web based activities today.
    But: I see many younger folks simply starting – more or less – ignoring the ‘old fashioned’ but still very important ‘personal’ contacts and relationships.
    Sure, Xing is fast and trendy social software platform for enabling a small-world network for professionals, offering a couple of very useful and valuable ‘features’ for many biz tasks. Twitter as a social networking and micro-blogging service speeds up stuff too. And: You can have with all those services a lot of fun.

    But listen: Any ‘virtual’ occupation can’t beat a face-to-face personal experience! We are humans NOT robots. We don’t need ‘Bits and Bytes’ by instinct but ‘real’ conversation and emotions.

    Don’t start neglecting to take care for personal contacts. Even though it IS indeed much more time consuming than just doing a short Twitter. And i second Cop: A round of golf is still one of the best ‘door opener’!

  9. dood.. this is just lame way of networking for loosers… nothing beats the deals made on a golf course.. the plain old fashioned way..