What sounds like an expensive turbo-charged sports car is actually the social media platform Twitter and all the cool celebrity kids are using it to build an audience. In this recession, with the shuttering of The Rocky Mountain News, huge newspapers on financial life support and advertisers pulling back on network and cable, media needed something new. And they are all aTwitter over Twitter. The danger with such Twitter celebrity is the fickleness of audiences where you become an exploding firework vs. a steadily performing diesel engine.
Ellen DeGeneris is America’s sweetheart and its ‘coolest’ network talk show personality. This openly gay host is on the ‘A’ list of anyone wanting to promote a book, movie, launch a political campaign or ignite their news career. Dancing with Ellen during your intro is what everyone from Wolf Blitzer of CNN to President Barack and Michelle Obama do walking out on stage. So it was little surprise when her Twitter profile @TheEllenShow went live 24-hours ago with the plea, “help me grow this so I can tell Jay tonight” (that’s Jay Leno and his 10 million viewers, late night talk show host on rival NBC).
Five hours before the taping she had 25,000 followers and this morning, after the appearance aired in all US markets she had 50,000 (and, indirectly, Twitter gained probably half of those folks as new subscribers). After it airs here in the UK tomorrow night on CNBC Europe (and in other market around the world) she could easily surpass 100,000 Twitter followers in 48 hours. That’s almost as impressive as the Dalai Lama’s Twitter account (which was later revealed to be a fake).
Throughout the day we saw her upload backstage photos, model outfit choices for Jay’s show and the above photo playing poker backstage with her staff, taken from either a Blackberry or iPhone. And her fans love it! Thousands viewed and commented.
Closer to home here in Wales, BBC has a radio version of Ellen. Jamie Owen and Louise Elliot are the Welsh versions of US news anchor Brian Williams and Today Show host Meredith Viera. Jamie is the hardest working man in show biz often doing the morning show then anchoring the evening BBC news at 6 and 10 on the telly. Louise is a top journalist and BBC international correspondent in her own right.
The Jamie and Louise Show has a huge local following with their version of morning talk, music and news. Instead of ‘in your face’ political debate and gotcha journalism, they practice something I’ve grown to call newsfotainment. They play great classic rock staples coupled with guests sitting for 30-45 minutes at a time and it’s like slipping on a comfortable cardigan and setting by the fire with a cuppa tea or coffee. They, like Ellen, make their guests and the listener feel very much at home.
So about two weeks ago I appeared on their program to talk about and explain the Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn phenomena to their audience. Before the show with their producers Paul, Jo and I set up an account @JamieandLouise and installed a companion program on all studio desktops. Now Louise (Jamie less so) is all atwitter over Twitter.
And they are in Wales where just about everything is slower to catch on yet nearly 100 people follow them and comment/converse as Lou takes them through their pre- and post-show rituals and uses the show to promote who will be appearing tomorrow, backstage looks at the studio and just chatting.
The big difference? Jamie and Louise follow almost everyone who follows them. Ellen follows 3 people although some do get an @ or direct reply. And the real danger is appearing aloof or arrogant in this new media vs. interacting. It’s more than polite to follow someone back, it’s also smart business and shows them you care. That does not mean you have to answer their every Tweet. You can pick and choose and it’s all about appearances. This is a new extension of your persona. Lets folks see what goes on behind the scenes and feel informed and involved.
Stephen Fry is a UK-wide personality with almost 300,000 followers. The most famous reference is him Tweeting whilst stuck in an elevator. He did pretty well a few weeks ago keeping up and following 50,000+ of the then 85,000 following him. He now has some catching up to do as everyone in the media references him and his account. Still he manages to selectively Tweet and respond to 20-30 each day.
NBC’s oldest and most famous news program, Meet the Press’ host David Gregory has 168,000 followers (up 70,000 in two weeks since everyone in the media talked about his Twitter account) but… and this is big, he follows only 87 people (up exactly 3 in the same period) and his 3 Tweets on average daily indicate he may not be serious and rather wants to ‘push’ his show (you can get a text message by dialling…). That shows arrogance, direct selling and the Twitterverse does not like either. So Welcome to Firework City David, most will ignore and/or stop following in time unless you follow back and converse.
So while Jamie and Lou may look like they have a long way to go, genuineness is a rare commodity in media and in the end, folks will come and look but they won’t stay unless you take an interest in them. They are developing a fan base for life vs. just a flash in the pan. Just purring along like a solid diesel engine, very stable, very Welsh. Besides they have good coffee!
by Denis Campbell