Social Media Guru Andrew Watts

From Twitter to Snapchat, the UT student is ready to revolutionize communication in the social media industry.

By Ben Zhang, Duke University


For Andrew Watts, Twitter and Facebook aren’t just websites that he visits on a daily basis. They are his main claims to fame.

The University of Texas senior was thrust into the spotlight two years ago when a blog post he wrote, dissecting various social media networks from a teenager’s perspective, went viral. The attention he received led to follow-up pieces, interviews and a trip to the White House, making him quite the hot commodity.

Though no longer a teenager, Andrew continues to dispense his thoughts about the state of technology and social media. In a few years, he hopes to venture out and make his own mark on the industry. Given his recent success, who’s to say that he can’t do just that?

Management Information Systems Major Andrew Watts Is the Future of Social Media

UT student Andrew Watts

A typical day on social media has definitely changed for me throughout the years, but I would say today, it’s fairly consistent. The first and last social media network I check every day is Twitter, which I use as a way to keep informed about news rather than following friends/celebs on it. Since I am passionate about technology, my favorite Twitter accounts are generally technology reporters or people who comment on the industry. After Twitter, I often check Snapchat, Instagram and finally Facebook. I have my notifications turned off for Facebook, but I use it as another way for me to stay up-to-date on news, especially in the music industry. I’ve curated my newsfeed to show certain publications first, so I never miss a post.”

Management Information Systems (MIS) is a major that combines computer science and business, though definitely focusing more on the business side. In class, I learn how to code websites and databases, while also learning about finance and accounting. I was drawn to MIS because I was passionate about the technology industry, yet knew I didn’t necessarily have the technical chops to write code.”

In my free time, I listen to a ton of music, watch movies, play video games (“Overwatch” is my favorite) and do yoga. I also help bring cool people to come speak at my university. In the past, I’ve invited Mark Cuban and Evan Spiegel, among others. I think it’s a great way to have students learn from others’ experiences and hopefully take away advice that they can utilize in their own lives.”

I think people are attracted to computer science and tech jobs because they offer such a fun, creative environment that really challenges people to do things they’ve never thought of before. This pursuit of knowledge is what makes the industry so appealing, and the instant effects of the industry on people’s lives in a noticeable, actionable way makes it even more alluring. There’s something special about doing something that you can point to and say, ‘That was because of me,’ especially when that something is part of a product or app that someone already uses.”

I was really surprised at the virality of “A Teenager’s View on Social Media” because I really had no following or presence before it. The blog post was published at an inopportune time of day (11 p.m. PST on Friday, January 2) but somehow managed to pick up steam throughout the weekend. I think it went viral because Medium was a really popular network to share blogs on at the time. I gave the blog an engaging title, and the writing style I used was very informal and to the point. The use of visuals and the design of the blog helped a lot too, as well as Medium’s built-in sharing/social tools.”

I think social media definitely promotes false fronts, which is why I think networks such as Snapchat have grown in popularity. Snapchat can be a false front, but I do think it’s the most authentic network for people to share how they are truly feeling. Snapchat’s messaging feature is a really intimate way to connect with someone, more so than sending them a text or a DM. Overall though, since social media is so external-facing and quite often focuses on an extended network rather than a tight-knit, close network, users want to ‘put their best foot forward’ since they’re never quite sure who will see their posts.”

There are plenty of social media networks that come and go. I can think of plenty just off the top of my head. It’s difficult to be a prognosticator in this area because the network can fail for so many reasons beyond the concept of the network itself, which is generally all you have to go off of in the early days of an application. However, networks can fail through poor growth marketing, confusing or frustrating product updates and other things that the user can’t control. There are tons of networks that would have succeeded had they updated just a little bit faster or done slightly more marketing, but sadly, they did not.”

I think social media is definitely focusing more on user interests and privacy than ever before. People are loving the features of Snapchat and Instagram that alleviate the user from social pressures such as likes and comments, so I wouldn’t be surprised if more applications integrated that same ideology into their product in the future. There has also been an emergence of more interest-based social-network features (such as Snapchat’s Discover page) that I think will be worth exploring more in the coming years.”

If I were going to design the next killer social media app, I would be sure to include features that help make the network as fun as possible for the user. Worrying about how many likes or comments your post gets isn’t fun. Worrying about who saw (or didn’t see) your posts isn’t fun. Seeing that someone read your message but didn’t respond isn’t fun. I think it’s possible to make a network that doesn’t have the same addictive qualities as all of the other networks, but still promotes being connected with your friends in an authentic way.”

In five years, I see myself working in growth marketing at a startup, and in ten years, I would love to run my own startup. I hope to continue exploring technology and hopefully create a product that can help people connect with each other in an authentic, positive way. In the meantime, I am happy to learn more about how to market products and companies that I am passionate about and that are making a positive impact on the world.”