The New New Thing: Tweeting with Joe Wadlington
It’s hard to pin a label on Joe Wadlington. Born in Appalachian Tennessee, educated in Indiana, and building a solid career in San Francisco, Joe’s had more tech writing jobs than some folks have pairs of shoes. (Though, he also has a lot of shoes.)
Currently, he’s kind of a big deal on (and at) Twitter, where he runs @TwitterOpen, the employee advocacy Twitter handle for the LGBTQ community.
In this episode of The New New Thing podcast, Joe tells us about growing up in a storytelling culture, stumbling toward a career path by writing for tech companies, and making time for his passion.
The Practical Side of Storytelling
Shortly after graduating from Butler University with a degree in creative writing, Joe found a job with an SEO content provider. “When I was asked, as an 18-year-old, [what I wanted to be] I wanted to be a writer—as if 40 year olds know the answer to that question,” he said. He ghostwrote for “mommy blogs,” writing about “my stretchmarks, making crafts with kids and breast pumps.” Soon, Joe developed the urge to move to a new city, and San Francisco fit the bill.
His first professional attempts in his new city weren’t stellar. He styled himself a consultant and made his own business cards. “About halfway through my first event, I realized I’d spelled my name wrong,” he said, laughing. “I just crossed it out on each one and told people ‘I’m an editor.” Turns out that mistake might have earned him a position with an early-stage VC firm, where he did everything from graphic design and writing web copy to brand consultation.
Doing the Work
Joe’s path ended up leading him to Twitter, where he’s a copywriter for the small business team. When he’s not writing for Twitter or @TwitterOpen, he’s writing for himself. He’s been published in The New Yorker, Racked.com and The Rumpus. And he sends a few hundred people writing prompts every Sunday morning with his newsletter Drafts.
“I love my job [with the small business team] and I’ve never had a better one,” Joe said. “But there’s difference between someone’s job and someone’s work. Twitter Open is work, and my own writing is work—I will have unlimited energy for my work.”
His ever-diligence on Twitter has led him to identify a new new brand marketing — brand clapbacks: “The way mentions are categorized and the ability to Quote Tweet gives brands more power to comment on (and redirect the conversation of) other people’s posts.” It also provides brands with cover to engage followers with a human touch, and address incorrect or misleading Tweets.
Making a living writing is tough, but so far, Joe is succeeding. And that talent for storytelling has given him an extra bit of Twitter stardom: his Tweetstorm about a first date with a former Olive Garden manager went viral.
“There was a second date,” he said.