Twitter may be enjoying its 8th year of existence as a pillar of social discourse, but by no means have tweeters stopped looking for new ways to break through the noise in 140 characters or less. Or rather, in some cases, quite the opposite, by stringing multiple tweets together in an attempt to create a complex yet thought-provoking discussion.

In the past few months, notable brethren of the Twitterati have taken to writing entire essays in 140 character chunks. Called a Tweetstorm™, (yes, it’s actually trademarked, I think?) it is essentially a series of tweets with a 1/ 2/ 3/ labeling system around a specific topic. Think of a typical multi-part tweet but on ‘roids. Its rise to popularity has been swift. There’s even a web tool for posting them.

It all began with legendary tech investor Marc Andreessen. A Netscape founder turned venture capitalist, Andreessen only really started tweeting on January 1 and has now amassed more than 24,000 tweets in half a year. That’s rounded to 120 tweets per day.

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Despite the hype surrounding tweetstorms, just like a weakening tropical depression compared to a growing hurricane, not all storms are created equal.

Andreessen told Business Insider he likes tweeting what are essentially essays in real time, allowing him to engage his readers in discussion and ignore or block those deemed unworthy. But the big problem is they blow up twitter streams, turning off followers by crowding out others who may have less winded, but equally or more insightful content to share.

So, like…write a blog…I guess?

Chances are if you have a multi-point argument to make, a blog is probably the best venue. However, like every marketing tactic, the decision to do a tweetstorm or not depends on your goals and the context in which you execute the initiative.

Generally, successful tweetstorms share common characteristics:

  • There is a clear goal in mind. Typically, tweetstorms are a method to build thought leadership and raising awareness for the particular topic in question.
  • They start with a compelling and topical idea that relates to their audience.
  • The author has built a track record of credibility before hand, including actively engaging in discussions by sharing relevant content.
  • Total tweets don’t generally exceed more than 15-20. Tweetstorms already test the patience and attention of followers, especially those not particularly intrigued by the topic.

In other words, do the exact opposite of what Jason Biggs did in reference to the downed Malaysian aircraft in Ukraine. Though not a “true” tweetstorm, it is a mess of hateful tweets that crowd out Twitter streams while pleasing no one and offending everyone.

Of course, emulating the characteristics of a successful tweetstorm is much easier said than done. That’s why this new twist on a tweeting method as old as the platform itself should be utilized with a giant helping of caution. The margin of error can be low, with a high risk of annoying followers, or worse yet, losing them. But for the right opportunity, a tweetstorm just might be the trick that moves the proverbial needle.

Written by: Keith Metz-Porozni