Twitter takes flight
Twitter made global headlines when James Buck, a graduate journalist, was arrested in Egypt for taking photographs of an anti-government protest earlier this year. On his way to the police station, Buck used his mobile to send the message “arrested” to 48 followers on Twitter, which ignited a worldwide campaign to get him released.
From that moment, the PR world woke up to the idea that microblogging (Twitter offers a text-based posting system of up to 140 characters in length) could wield a powerful global influence. Most recently, Twitter has been used by Barack Obama to show real-time updates of his progress across America.
The Sarah Palin Hockey Mom cult has found its voice through mundane tweets and has been so successful that a large number of satirical tweets have risen around it like cuckoos – the FakeSarahPalin twitter now has more followers than the official Palin site. Palin’s PR people may have used it initially to try to expand her personality, but the satirists have the upper hand, because they understand the medium more acutely.
Celebrities and their minders are following the trend, including John Cleese and Henry Rollins, intravenously dripping fan bases with soundbites and mindless minutiae, and sidestepping the media hordes. The beauty of Twitter is that it can be linked to a mobile phone, meaning that fans of the Twittering stars can get the information the instant it is disgorged. It’s a mode of control, but the PR luvvies need to be smarter.
Throughout PR’s history, the best publicists have embraced the latest technologies, be it wire service or mobile phone, and used them to enhance a client’s profile. The trouble is that the more one sees of the star’s life, the less effulgent said celebrity becomes – just look at Britney Spears or Amy Winehouse.
So PRs behind the celebrity tweets need to take care, otherwise Twitter could end up making twits of those who tweet because they become totally over-exposed or subsumed in imitators. One just has to look at the early craze on Twitter for people pretending to be Darth Vader or Boba Fett, which started out as charming and funny and swiftly became deeply tedious.
If celebrities and their minders over-indulge in Twitter, only the most restrained and interesting characters will survive. Survival of the Twittest, perhaps?