Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo is a U-M alumnus. I had heard that along the way somewhere, but I was still surprised the day I received an email from him inviting me to Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. He knew I was creating the university’s first-ever social media director position and planning for Michigan’s future presence in the social media space.
I remember jumping out of my chair to tell my colleagues the news. “I just got an email from the CEO of Twitter; how cool is that?”
And then I realized I’d have to confess to Dick that I didn’t use Twitter. I had an account, but the only tweets I’d sent so far were automated messages notifying my handful of followers about new blog posts. It was a pitiful state of affairs, really. I broke the news to him when I responded to his gracious invitation.
“Uh, you’ve probably already figured out that I don’t use Twitter except to read news headlines,” I confessed. “But I promise I’ll get my tweeting act together.”
He replied quickly. “Don’t worry about the Twitter use. We are growing like a weed, and I know you’ll be using it even more shortly. ”
Growing like a weed, indeed. Recent statistics show that the number of online adults using Twitter has doubled since this time last year, and the growth among young adults age 18–24 is pretty astonishing, too. (You can read more about Twitter’s growth here.) The day U-M’s social media director Jordan Miller and I visited Twitter, the company was moving into its new, quarter-of-a-million-square-foot headquarters on Market Street in San Francisco. The space is home to 1,000+ Twitter employees; a few hundred more work in global satellite locations.
Our visit was energizing—and fun, too. Dick was as gracious in person as his invitation implied, and (of course) smart as a whip. His background is interesting, too. After graduating from Michigan with a degree in computer science, he did a couple of years of improvisational comedy before embarking on his entrepreneurial and management career.
Two other executives—U-M alum Neil Shah and Omid Ashtari—joined us for the meeting. We talked about Twitter’s unique characteristics. The medium is special in its conversational tone and ability to give a voice and a personality to a brand. We brainstormed opportunities to better engage with prospective and admitted students in the social space—in essence, to invite them into a conversation,and to enable them to meet one another long before they arrive on campus. And we considered innovative ways to engage with alumni who are active Twitter users, using tweets to offer university and campus content not available elsewhere.
— Lisa Rudgers (@lisarudgers) June 11, 2012
We’re excited about developing our Michigan “voice” and establishing a social media leadership position for higher education. I am grateful for the support Dick and his team have offered.
And me? I jumped into the tweeting fray a couple of weeks ago. I’m quite a novice, but find myself drawn to Twitter’s personal dynamic and its ability to connect users who may not know one another but who share common interests. Follow me @lisarudgers. I might be tweeting about the university, social media, world events, knitting, food, my kids or my dogs. But for sure I’ll be part of the conversation.
More photos of my visit to Twitter on my flickr feed.