[Update: @HowardStern is enjoying Twitter so much, he talked today about how he plans to experiment with a talk show on Twitter after having fun quizzing @Alyssa_Milano. Pretty impressive tech innovation for a guy who still uses Lotus Notes.]
Last week, Howard Stern (@howardstern) finally broke down and decided to start tweeting at the urging of his colleagues and friends. So far, he’s doing everything right and his success is something anyone can learn from even if they’re not the “King of all Media.”
- Be Authentic: Stern tweets himself. He doesn’t have his publicist or agent or staff tweet for him. In an interview with Piers Morgan today (another celebrity who understands Twitter), he emphatically rejected the idea of having someone else tweet for him. Authenticity is what makes Twitter successful. It’s why people have been flocking (excuse the pun) there since 2007. In an age of glimmering fakery, they’re looking for real contact with people they find compelling. Stern’s first tweets were backstage before an appearance on the David Letterman show where he even posted a photo of himself sitting in the make-up chair flanked by Stern Show fixtures Vinnie Favale and Ralph Cirella.
- Have Something to Say: The traditional paradigm of mass media was that one must constantly publish to stay in front of the audience one has built. That relentless pressure to produce on deadline is often met at the expense of quality. In the era of social media, I fervently believe that you don’t need to force yourself to come up with something to say for the sake of saying something. If you’re scheduling tweets (especially repeats of your previous tweets) you’re likely doing something wrong. Stern tweets when he has time and feels inclined. That’s perfectly fine – unlike a newspaper, magazine, cable TV package, or Sirius radio – it costs nothing to remain a follower of the @howardstern twitter feed when he’s not tweeting (just as it costs nothing to follow the RSS feed of a blog or virtually any other form of publishing online).
- Trust Your Instincts: One of the main factors that kept Stern from trying Twitter was the relentless criticism he’s subject to being a controversial figure of his notoriety. Fortunately he discovered the satisfying feeling that comes with blocking someone from interacting with you. That’s not to say that one should block out all negative comments. You know when a criticism is authentic and constructive – so trust yourself and block out all of the carping that doesn’t add quality insight to your life.
- Engage Your Audience as the Real You: This applies for multinational companies just as it does individuals. It doesn’t matter if you have dozens of Twitter followers or millions – you’re not making the best use of the medium if you’re not connecting on a one-on-one basis with people. That’s not to say that you have to reply to every tweet fired off to you, but at the very least you have the chance to respond to the ones you find interesting. Another way celebrities can provide their millions of followers a simulated personal connection is by letting them see interactions with their friends (which usually include other celebrities that followers are interested in). So @howardstern converses with @johnstamos – and we get a voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of these two personalities. Stern also had fun with a challenge to his audience; offering to post a photo he’d just shot of his model wife Beth Ostrosky Stern with his smartphone if he reached 100,000 followers by “cocktail hour.”
- Use it for Real-Time Group Experiences: Twitter is terrible for communicating complex messages; by design it sacrifices the ability to apply nuance/depth for flexibility/brevity. This allows it to be an ideal vehicle for communicating with many people in real-time about a shared interest. Case in point: the Superbowl. For my money, the tweets about the Superbowl halftime show (most of which mocked the over-the-top Black Eyed Peas performance with references to Tron and Demolition Man) were far more interesting than the actual show itself. Stern launched a few snarky tweets during the Superbowl and by his own admission he had a great time.
- “give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give THEN ASK! Period!”: To quote sommelier and social media pro Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee), you can’t just promote yourself and ask things of your audience. You have to provide them with value – and not only that, but you have to provide them with comparatively more value than what you’re asking for. As Stern demonstrates – it’s not until his 49th tweet that he finally promotes himself.
Here’s to hoping Stern convinces his parents to start a “@ShitBenSternSays” Twitter account.