Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Twitter's 1st evangelism comms guy, Linkedin's 2nd PR guy. These are my thoughts on tech, public relations, and life.

Time for Stories: The Next Era Of Social Media is Now!

LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, now Firework

This post has been a long time coming. But I couldn’t have picked a better time.

It’s when the dust settles, that the stories begin.

The past decade has truly been a roller-coaster in my life and work 1; but the highs can be captured in two startups I was a part of, and whose products I’m most passionate about. And my excitement at a third startup, where I started recently.


Preamble

It is 12 years since I started at LinkedIn 2.

A whole eternity has passed between now and then. Social has evolved from the social network to the feed 3 to “the like,” 4, both of which reinvented modern communication, to Twitter’s @ mention, hashtag and threads and finally today’s ubiquitous Stories.

It is these 3 social tech innovations that have signaled a paradigm shift in how we communicate — game-changers — and I’ve been lucky enough to have been a part of two of these seminal moments in technology. Here’s that story, and mine.

Network.

Hashtag.

Stories.


Network. When LinkedIn Changed Work.

I recall when I started at LinkedIn the world was a different place, Twitter wasn’t around, Facebook was still just in colleges and Friendster was a cautionary tale.

LinkedIn didn’t even have a profile picture and there were extensive debates on adding this simple feature! But the six years that followed LinkedIn launched a slew of new features (Hat tip, @adamnash) that is now a mainstay of professional networking whether it was People Search, the world’s first application platform for professionals, game-changing smart features like Who’s Viewed my Profile, or LinkedIn News that originally launched as “LinkedIn Today” (stealth version was called “LinkedIn Signal”) — becoming today’s modern resume and Professional News Magazine in one.

Regardless, it was an exciting part of my journey in social tech, that was made even more special as nearly half a billion professionals across the globe today call LinkedIn, their work home!

Next stop. Twitter!


Hashtag. When Twitter Changed News.

While at LinkedIn, Twitter was starting out and I recall when one of my colleagues, Steve Ganz, brought it back from SXSW in 2006, and gave me a hands-on guide 5.

38,000 Tweets, 13 years, and 7500 followers later, I’m still smitten.

Twitter, as a product, was a slow-burn but a few weeks in and I was hooked and it was clear from day one that it was an information sharing powerhouse. Ditto for Facebook, I remember Jeremiah Owyang, rave about Facebook after an afternoon of golf. But, I digress…

Fast forward, 10 years and there I was at Twitter HQ, as part of the PR team built by Natalie Kerris, Apple veteran, and yes it was thrilling to be a part of a product that only rivals Apple in my daily consumption.

Twitter products that have changed the world, include the world’s acceptance of the @ mention (that was invented by @jack), Retweets (a throwback to the era of blogging where you reblogged others), the hashtag (accidentally invented by Chris Messina) and the Twitter thread (that was accidentally invented by another user, Marc Andreessen).

Walking into their San Francisco offices (seems quaint now in the era of the pandemic where Twitter WFH for life!), but the time I spent there (albeit short-lived) was worth the space Twitter occupies in my heart. And I wish it had been longer… Gotta move.

Next Stop. Now!


Stories. When Snapchat Changed Publishing.

Since Twitter, we have seen 4 years of chaos in the world culminating in an election that just wrapped. I have been at a couple of other startups, including one that competed with Google Photos, and was later acquired by Snapchat.

Speaking of Snapchat.

It is clear that what Snapchat created with Stories has taken the world by storm. Never have I seen a social feature, get copied so thoroughly. And, Snapchat just copied TikTok today.

Just this past year, we have seen every social platform from Pinterest to (yes!) LinkedIn, mimic this feature and pay homage to the most exciting space in social tech; one that is short, compelling and visual.

Tomorrow. The Best Part of Storytelling is Now.

That brings me to the latest startup I joined recentlyFirework.

Through a challenging few years, I find my life and career come full circle within the social space. This is a startup that gives me a chance to once again work by the side of Jerry Luk (co-founder, Firework) who built LinkedIn’s mobile app, back in the day.

Firework sits in the short video and stories space, a grown-up more like Google AMP Stories, than the flippant memes you might see on TikTok. A creative medium that lets publishers tell their boldest new stories in modern ways, while connecting with an emerging global audience in ways that has never been done before!


Stay Tuned for more…

It has been quite a journey since LinkedIn in 2005 and it’s been even more tumultuous in the past 6 months, in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

I will continue blogging my thoughts on life in the time of Covid-19, evolution of social technology, and my personal focus on health, fitness, and spirituality.

So follow me and over 10,000 of my followers and connections on LinkedIn and Twitter. For now, the easiest would be for you to follow me on Twitter @mariosundar.


  1. I recently walked through what made it such a wild ride, and how meditation & running saved me. ↩︎
  2. Here’s an early interview I did with friend & analyst Jeremiah Owyang, where an awkward me talks him through what all this means to tech and me ↩︎
  3. Remember when the chaos erupting from their users when Facebook launched the feed in 2006 ↩︎
  4. The “Like” was created by Bret Taylor, who also created Google Maps, and much later Quip, which sold to Salesforce ↩︎
  5. I also recall LinkedIn co-founder and Head of Product, Allen Blue, giving me a demo of the very first iPhone when he got his before the rest of us, time stood still! ↩︎

Filed under: About Mario Sundar, Best-of, Firework, TikTok, What's New in Social Media