On Twitter’s birthday: How Twitter changed my life

twitter's birthday

By Mark W. Schaefer

Ten years ago today, Jack Dorsey sent out the first tweet. Twitter was nearly an afterthought in those early days, an outcropping from a video service Dorsey had a hand in starting. Despite protests from investors, the company launched officially July 15, 2006. Still, I like to think of this day as the “real” birth of the service.

It is no overstatement or social media hyperbole to say that Twitter has changed my life. Although I am known (somewhat?) for writing the best-selling book on Twitter, the platform has altered my path in profound ways.

twitter's birthday

I could spend days recounting the real personal and business benefits of Twitter, but allow me today to tell you one story, one of my favorites.

Twitter chatter

I signed on to Twitter in 2008 but didn’t really become a power user until the following year. In fact, for six months I hated it. The first tweet I ever received was “It’s 4 a.m.” … pretty much confirming this was the stupidest thing I had ever seen.

But after a while I got in the flow and I used to love to look for my friends online each evening. One in particular was hard to miss, Amy Howell. Amy had a habit of ending every tweet with at least five exclamation points, a style I dubbed the “Exclaimy.”

Amy was a natural networker and soon I was drawn into her circle of friends. In fact, she decided to hold an event in Memphis and bring all of these Twitter peeps together. I couldn’t miss this and drove nine hours out of my way on a business trip just to attend.

Here are some the results of this ONE meeting with Twitter friends that fall day in 2010 …

The results

Amy Howell was the organizer of the event and we have been close friends ever since. We have collaborated on many projects. She was featured in two of my books and I was featured in her latest book Students in High Gear.

Anne Deeter Gallaher was the “Students” book co-author. Anne and her family have become close friends. She was responsible for hiring me to keynote her Social Media at Work Conference for five consecutive years. My annual trip to speak in Harrisburg has become a cherished time to see friends in that city like Dan Christ, Kathy Snavely, and Alan Brocious, who recently volunteered his time to teach my intern Google AdWords.

Billy Mitchell is the president of MLT Creative in Atlanta. Billy has been a dear friend and collaborator. His firm has created art for me and was a sponsor of this blog for many years. I supported his business through webinars, an ebook, consulting and speeches, including a keynote debut of my “Content Code” speech in Atlanta. At one of my speaking events at his creative campus I met Ted Wright, who became a key collaborator on a project I did for Adidas last year.

Glen Gilmore is a consultant and attorney in New Jersey. I helped Glen get a contract with McGraw-Hill (check out his indispensable book Social Media Law for Business) and a teaching position at Rutgers University. He has helped me with legal advice on a variety of issues.

Deb Weinstein is the very talented founder of the award-winning Strategic Objectives firm in Toronto. She recently helped me with a client project in Ontario and I’m meeting her for dinner next week to discuss new ways to work together.

Chris Brogan was the speaker at this first event. Chris has become a friend and he was featured prominently in my latest book The Content Code. We created a new video together just a few weeks ago exploring the idea of personal branding.

This group of friends got along so well in that first meeting that we decided to do it again the next year. I offered to host the group in Knoxville and had the idea that we could create some content together … maybe have a few talks and panels. I invited the public to attend … and 425 people showed up from 13 states.

This was the beginning of the Social Slam conference, a highly successful event I founded to highlight new social media marketing talent and provide world-class conference that was affordable. It drew 650 people from 25 states and five countries in its final year (I ended the conference when it grew so large that we could not easily maintain the volunteer format that kept ticket prices low).

The network of friends that coalesced around a few early tweets has created far-reaching business benefits that have touched thousands of other people, and it continues today.


This is just one of the many stories I could tell about the amazing things Twitter has accomplished in my life. Most of my most important business collaborators, customers, and friends started with an innocent tweet. But not everybody sees Twitter like I do, especially Wall Street.

In the past year there have been so many business problems at Twitter. Sometimes I wonder if the company really knows how powerful they are. Twitter is the most people-driven social media platform. None of Twitter’s greatest innovations came from the company.

  • The hashtag came from the people.
  • Twitter chats were created by the people.
  • Innovations that led to Twitter being a television voting mechanism didn’t come from the company and neither did the Twitter-powered social revolutions. When governments announce that a leader has fallen on Twitter, it’s hard to believe the best innovation that came from the company last year was “Moments” (yawn).

In my The Tao of Twitter book I refer to Twitter a “majestic random synergy.” And so it is. You simply never know what’s going to happen next. Twitter is changing the world.

So Happy Birthday Twitter. And thanks.


SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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