How Jay-Z reinvented the art of the Twitter Q&A

jay-z-album-magna-carta-holy-grailJay-Z is known for many things. Rapping. Beyonce-domesticating. Being a titan of commerce. Aggressively repping Brooklyn. Accumulating massive wealth. He is not a business man; he’s a business, man. He’s good at life (though less adept at modesty). And now he can add another feather to his most certainly diamond-encrusted cap: He is amazing at Twitter.

Yesterday, Jay-Z took Twitter by storm, breaking his self-imposed digital reticence to engage in an impromptu question-and-answer session with fans that didn’t follow any of the standard rules of Twitter but was extremely captivating to watch and remarkably thorough – I’m surprised that he didn’t get stuck in Twitter jail, since he unleashed an impressive torrent of over 150 tweets, answering fan questions and perfecting a number of instantly quotable hashtags.

His first response started around 1 PM Eastern time, seemingly randomly. He responded to a man named Brian Fagioli who sent him a rather sarcastic tweet.

 Jay-Z soon tweaked the expression to #mylaugh, which can be assumed to mean you’re supposed to pretend to hear his laugh after you read his remarks. Soon Jay-Z began re-tweeting fans who asked him questions, but adding his answers to their questions in brackets, often with #mylaugh or #factsonly or #newrules added at the end. This is the first time someone has tried this format for questions and answers on Twitter, and as Buzzfeed’s John Hermann put it, “A famous rapper who doesn’t care about Twitter just logged in and invented a better Twitter in, like, five minutes.” Taking part of Twitter Q&A is tough – but Hova, with just a smidgen of Twitter experience, just totally upped the ante on us all and made Twitter conversation make far more damn sense. 

Jay-Z showed you can engage with people on Twitter without following every arbitrary convention. If you’re used to scrolling through your Twitter feed but you haven’t seen these replies, you may be confused about how weird they look, since Jay-Z didn’t follow the format that everyone is used to – sometimes he answers in those brackets, but not always, and sometimes he puts stuff both in and out of brackets. It was an unpredictable, exciting roller coaster!

The questions Jay-Z chose veered from lighthearted to quite serious. For instance, he addressed one fan that asked about charges against the app Samsung rolled out to hear Jay-Z’s newest record, Magna Carta Holy Grail. Critics say the app was poorly designed because it asked for too many permissions from its users. It’s unusual to see an artist directly address this type of criticism, even if he didn’t exactly go into specifics:

Jay-Z is against superfluous digital surveillance!

Hova also answered questions about Miley Cyrus (he’s pro), Ireland (also pro), and what inspired him to rap (life did). He wasn’t particularly revealing about anything other than his general good nature, but it was fascinating to see such a big, somewhat closed-off celebrity have a rapid-fire interaction with his fans, especially one with some pretty witty jokes.

Jay spent a big chunk of the day crafting replies to his fans, starting around noon and ending at exactly 7:09. And what was he doing afterwards? His tweet was … cryptic.

Since Kanye often joins Jay on outings, we can only hope he’ll follow in his footsteps and do a similar session, because he’s substantially much more bonkers than the certainly bombastic but generally reasonable Mr. Carter. And hopefully other big-league stars see how excited and appreciative fans were about this approach to Twitter; many times major celebrities use Twitter as a transparent PR tool rather than an actual chance to communicate in a less filtered way with their fans.

Yesterday’s experiment was entertaining in many ways, but it also speaks some truth about the state of Twitter conversations. A lot of things about Twitter work and work well and simple – but others don’t. It’s a platform for celebrities and leaders to reach out and speak to people from a massive platform, but when the functionality and form of that conversation is ugly and confusing and easy to miss, then it’s doing something wrong. It’s actually sort of surprising that Twitter doesn’t have some sort of Q&A feature for this very purpose, or at the very least that replies aren’t highlighted to signify and answer or retort. I say this with complete seriousness: Twitter could learn a thing or two from Jay-Z.

He may have come and gone all too fast, but Jay-Z left a tweeted legacy in the form of brackets and insta-hashtag material. 

Emerging Tech

Researchers create a flying wireless platform using bumblebees

Researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a novel way to create a wireless platform: using bumblebees. As mechanical drones' batteries run out too fast, the team made use of a biology-based solution using living insects.
Smart Home

The best air fryers deliver fried food with a fraction of the calories

What is this magical mechanism? It's an air fryer, and when used correctly, it can mimic the effects of frying while using just a little bit of oil. You still get that crispy, golden exterior and the fluffy center.
Movies & TV

Sit down and watch some of the best stand-up comedy on Netflix

Feeling a little funny? There are hundreds of hilarious comedy specials out there, and you can't be expected to comb through them all. Lucky for you, we've compiled a list of the best stand-up specials on Netflix.
Movies & TV

'Stranger Things' season 3 teaser reveals the new episodes' titles

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season.
Social Media

This event topped Facebook’s biggest moments of the year — again

As the year comes to a close, Facebook is looking back on what users discussed most over the last year. For two years in a row, International Women's Day topped the list. So what else is on the list?
Social Media

This band owns Twitter, according to list of top accounts and tweets for 2018

What was the biggest buzz on Twitter in 2018? Twitter's 2018 Year in Review highlights the biggest tweets, accounts, and hashtags. The most-tweeted celebrities, movies, TV shows, athletes, politicians and more in Twitter's 2018 trends.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.
Home Theater

It took Tom Cruise to raise awareness of this troublesome TV setting

Tom Cruise, in an unexpected PSA tweet, asks you to turn off motion interpolation on your TV, but stops short of how to do it. Here's more on the topic, along with links to a guide on how to rid your TV of the dreaded "soap opera effect."

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.
Social Media

Walkie-talkie voice messaging finally comes to Instagram

In its latest grab from messaging apps, Instagram now lets you send walkie-talkie style voice messages. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and iMessage have offered the feature for some time.
Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.