Evan Williams Twitter keynote at SXSW: The Art of Good Business

Simon Mainwaring / Creativity / 9 years ago

Kind of cool to see Evan floating in cyberspace like this.

Today’s keynote by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams was much anticipated. Even though the fireside chat approach was too quiet for some, I found Evan Williams to be incredibly succinct and articulate. Prompted by questions from Harvard Business Review’s Umair Haque, Evan Williams distilled large changes in the branding and social media space into accessible, bite size ideas. Here’s my list of some of the most memorable:

Twitter is an information network that let’s people discover what they care about.

Our goal is to increase the signal to noise ratio and to get the right information to people who care.

A window is transparent and a door is open. Twitter chooses to be open.

Being open to being wrong is a survival technique despite the temptation to close up.

To ensure your longevity ask how you create the greatest value for your users.

What good for our users creates value for us.

Experimentation and openness key to success in the digital age.

Though control is necessary for the health of the ecosystem.

Twitter let’s people reach the weakest signals in the world.

SMS is the true power of twitter for those on the other side of the digital divide.

The most profound promise of the internet is the democratization of information and it can change the world.

Affect people positively, pay attention 2 what matters 2 people, and provide more meaningful outcomes through information.

Our aim is to erase information assymetries.

Companies only have a competitive advantage when their service or product means everybody wins.

When someone loses out, the business is not sustainable.

Traditional and new media need to work together to create new species within the ecosystem.

Brands will be heard faster especially if the barriers to entry are lower.

Advice to entrepreneurs: Create something you want in the world.

The more focused and specific you are the more scalable you become.

People were pretty tired today after the never-ending stream of sponsored parties last night but I heard a lot of people say they had their favorite sessions today. I really enjoyed a cause lab workshop and will be posting a video soon. A fun and substantive day overall.

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  1. I really wanted to enjoy this talk, but couldn’t. At a conference that runs for five days, going to sessions all day every day, I like it when presenters inject some humor or other personality to differentiate themselves from everyone else and also to help keep us engaged. This one didn’t have that.

    With that said, I’m glad you posted such a great summary so we can all have the info moving forward. Thanks Simon!

  2. Avatar iconic88 says:

    Thanks for the updates here Simon.

    “Our goal is to increase the signal to noise ratio and to get the right information to people who care.”
    “The most profound promise of the internet is the democratization of information and it can change the world.”

    If you look at these in combination Simon, do you think Twitter's establishment of the suggested users list (SUL) was a short-term marketing play which isn't in the spirit of these tenets?

    For one, wouldn't a truly democractic system be one without the SUL [from the beginning] to enable the crowds to decide who's tweets deserves a retweet? In this case, a retweet would be a vote in this democratic environment.

    Secondly, for them to choose who goes on the SUL defeats the whole purpose of their goal to increase the signal to noise ratio as this can be interpreted as being skewed towards their view of the world by a subjective selection process.

    For example, it's interesting that Mashable is on SUL yet it's competitors aren't. CNN is probably on there, is Fox? Actors/actresses they admire vs the ones they don't. Musicians they love vs the ones they don't.

    As you know preaching and making the rubber hit the road are entirely two different things like the difference between talking about driving a car to actually driving one.

    What do you think Simon?

    Best, Mahei

  3. I agree there's a disconnect here. There was a huge push back to the SUL and I agree it doesn't serve their overarching mission. Personally I believe it was an early adoption strategy through which they reward influencers with exposure so they in turn drive twitter adoption through their communities. Expedient and a short term and effective tactic. That's my best guess. That said, I believe Biz and Evan are completely committed to the enablement of individuals and social change that twitter can bring about. Thx, Mahei.

  4. Avatar Iconic88 says:

    Contextually, it's a brilliant marketing tactic Simon. Create the initial inertia on the front-end via the SUL to attract the influencers and their audience then fail forward 'kaizen' style on the backend in reply to best-practice and innovative crowdsourced feedback for an improved user-experience.

    Twitter really is positioning itself quite nicely as the real time communication utility quite like the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power 😉