What Is a Tweetstorm?

What Is a Twitterstorm?. Tim Martin / Getty Images

The term "Tweetstorm" (not Tweet Storm) was coined and made famous by Silicon Valley golden boy, Marc Andreessen. 

You’ve seen them before — the series of tweets from one person that starts with a number and a slash. Those numbers mean that this is the first tweet of a longer thought, followed by the second, and sometimes third and fourth. This series of posts, known as a Tweetstorm, is a way to share thoughts and comments that are too long for the 280 character limit.

In the 1980s and 90s, before the cell phone and the internet, there was the fax machine. The fax machine was frequently used for sending official documents requiring a signature. A fax could be sent across the country for a signature and returned within a few minutes. Experienced fax users would number the pages (1 of 3, 2 of 3, etc) because pages were regularly lost during transmission. In other words, if you were receiving a fax, you would know how many pages to expect. A Tweetstorm is not unlike this. A number on your tweet lets readers know how many tweets to expect in a series. On the surface, this seems like a great idea, but the Tweetstorm is not without controversy.

The primary argument against the Tweetstorm is that Twitter is designed for short bursts of sharing information or opinion. A series of tweets from one person, especially a lengthy series, can be considered spam. No one likes spam, and this could be a great way to lose followers. This is not to say that the occasional Tweetstorm does not have a place. One case in point might be a newscaster tweeting about a tornado warning, or a broadcaster live-tweeting the Puppy Bowl.

Why Should I Tweetstorm?

This question is not so easily answered. Do you find that you rarely run out of your allotted 280 characters when tweeting? You may never have a need to Tweetstorm. Do you find yourself editing most of your tweets so they can fit into Twitter’s format? Maybe this is for you. As with most things in life, this is not necessarily an all or nothing approach. You don’t have to choose which side of The Force to align yourself with; you can be like Darth Vader, both a Jedi and a Sith.

DIY Tweetstorm

  1. You can Tweetstorm directly from Twitter.
  2. You may notice tweets with these numbers and slashes in front of them.
  3. Sometimes, the numbers will come at the end of a tweet. That is a useful approach if you find you are running out of your 280 characters.
  4. The main problem with this is that your tweets show up in reverse order.
  5. This is not a major obstacle if someone is following your live tweets; they will get the information in the right order.

The biggest drawback to this approach, aside from most people reading your tweets in reverse order, is the time spent editing your tweets to make the most sense. Unless you have incredibly fast tweeting skills, there can be significant lag time between your tweets. It can be hard to follow a series of tweets that is comprised of incomplete phrases while waiting for the rest…

...of the sentence.

Apps to Help You Tweetstorm

To make your life easier, there are at least three apps available to help you Tweetstorm:

  1. Little Pork Chop
  2. Stormy (iOS)
  3. Thunderstorm (iOS)

These apps are usable on an iPhone or iPad and are both free. All three apps perform the same function, with slightly different operating procedures. The aesthetics of the user interface and of the resultant tweets vary enough that you may find one is better suited to your needs. The advantage of using an app is determined by your needs as a user, so we recommend trying more than one so you can see which one works best for you.

What Did We Think?

Twitter is known for conveying small nuggets of information and short conversations. As a Twitter user, it's easy to understand why the Tweetstorm is controversial and can be viewed as spam. On the other hand, sometimes you just need a little bit more room to make your point. Used carefully, these apps or the DIY approach to the Tweetstorm can be a great tool.