The media and twitterverse has been abuzz with the news that Dick Costolo has replaced Evan Williams as Twitter’s new head honcho.
Most of the coverage has focused on Costolo’s operations acumen and, specifically, if his leadership will cause those pesky API-problem or traffic-overload messages to go away.
Everyone has missed one of Costolo’s greatest assets, communications.
He is a master storyteller, perhaps a byproduct of days as an improvisational comedian.
For insights into Costolo’s mindset, values and storytelling, look no further than his old blog called Ask the Wizard.
He penned a post back in 2007 titled “Have a Company Voice” that shows conversational language, pithy insights and a touch of humor. It’s downright Buffett-esque.
The post starts off pointing to a letter Costolo received after placing an order with a company called Moosejaw.com:
“If you are actually reading this note you should be super happy. First, you have received your order, reading is fun and getting something in the mail (even if you bought it yourself) has got to make the day better. Second, I put your order together all by myself.”
That’s a fun note to read. I like Moosejaw more because of that note. Is it silly? Sure, it’s a silly note and it’s pre-printed, so I know that everybody else gets one. Why does the note make me like Moosejaw more? People like it when companies have personalities.
That last line, “people like it when companies have personalities” would seem to indicate that we’ll see Twitter’s brand-building effort open up in the coming months.
The post spends more time on this very point.
It’s fun to be the customer of a company with a personality. This seems totally obvious, and yet you too rarely see companies with distinct personalities really grab your attention in the marketplace. Why is this? It’s actually hard to remove personality and character from communications. So, instead of saying that companies don’t take the time to have personalities, it’s probably more accurate to state that companies don’t allow themselves to show their personalities.
Love the contrarian thinking and clever writing.
Costolo even calls out the corporate communications function as misdirected:
So, we (meaning you) spend lots and lots of time depersonalizing our corporate communications, because, you know, we can’t say that!. We write press releases that use approved emotions like “we are very excited to announce the release of…” instead of writing “It is with great fear and trepidation yet in some ways it is ultimately delightful for us to let you know we’re releasing …”, etc.
I’m looking forward to reading Twitter news releases that come down the pike during the Costolo era. It will be interesting to see if he wins the tug-of-war with the legal department.
And he closes with humor and self-deprecation, again, standard tools in Buffett’s communications toolkit:
Post-Script: I think I’m slowly going insane because the structure and grammar of my posts seems to get progressively worse. It’s like I’m the lead character in Flowers for Algernon and the brain surgery is wearing off. Soon I’ll be writing in all consonants and uploading pencil sketches.
After officially getting the CEO gig on Tuesday, Costolo tweeted:
So *that’s* what you have to do to get more followers.
His humor comes in a dry version too as further illustrated by the fact that one of the 113 people he follows on Twitter is @badbanana.
Is it refreshing or what to hear an executive share his or her views without going through a Six Sigma filter?
Clearly Costolo values communications and what it takes to truly build a great brand.
It’s also worth noting that he admires the Apple brand and how Steve Jobs himself puts his imprint on all communications that touch the customer.
I really think we’re about to see a new era at Twitter in ways no one anticipated.
At the very least, I don’t think the Twitter PR department will be exhorting the CEO to stay on message (although I suspect his Ask the Wizard blog won’t stay live much longer).