I recently spent an afternoon with classroom full of Arts & Media undergraduates, many of whom had just returned from three-month assignments at a variety of record companies and PR organisations.
Several of the students, previously more attuned to Facebook and MySpace, had their first taste of Twitter whilst on assignment where they had been placed in charge of updating Twitter with details of the activities of a variety of upcoming bands and popstars. Sometimes theye did this as the label or PR agency, but quite often they were tweeting as if they were the ‘star’ themselves.
It’s no great surprise that many ‘stars’ pay people to tweet on their behalf. This is for a variety of reasons ranging from garden-variety technical incompetence, through to a lack of interest, through to simply not being trusted by their ‘people’ to represent themselves on Twitter without loose-talk resulting in litigation problems for their record labels or security problems for themselves.
The students I spoke to had, on more than one occasion had to dive online masquerading as their ‘popstar’ charge in order to quickly repair the damage caused by ill-advised comments made when the celeb was actually allowed to tweet for themselves.
Elsewhere, many celebs are coming to terms with Twitter and seem to be doing a pretty good job of engaging with followers and fans without libelling anyone or encouraging stalkers by revealing too much personal information.
However, some are finding themselves signing contracts which prevent them from talking about current projects, such as Heroes star Kristen Bell, who has also had to contend with someone creating a similar Twitter name and finishing with her boyfriend on her behalf in the full glare of the social network, as reported in today’s Metro.
In the UK, established political songsmith and broadcaster Billy Bragg is slowly getting to grips with Twitter. He’s in the midst of a campaign to overturn the proposed bonus payments to Royal Bank of Scotland execs by withholding his own income tax payment.
Bragg’s Twitter-feed, previously used for the occasional announcement for a forthcoming gig, is now seeing more action as he shares details of his progress as he makes his continued stand along with links to relevant articles elsewhere on the web.
That said, Billy seems to tweet mainly from Twitter’s web interface or via Facebook, with most tweets being largely taken up with lengthy full-sized URLs.
Seasoned Twitter users and social media afficionados have pointed out that, with a little bit of Twitter training Bragg could become an even more potent political force.
On balance, it’s probably best to see celebs tweeting for themselves, however clumsily. This realistic approach demonstrates that they are ‘getting it right’ whilst they are ‘getting it wrong’. In other words, being willing to engage with followers, however warily, must be better than getting someone else to do it for you.
Twitter’s a slow-burn, it takes everyone a while to ‘get it’. Let’s keep an eye on those trying to get it right and give them a helping hand on the way.
As for those who aren’t who they say they are, it doesn’t take long for followers to work out what’s really going on.