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March 04 2009

Cut! Actors take five to Twitter their fans. LA Times discusses use of Twitter by celebs, including Felicia Day (who was famously caught "twittering under the table" at the Dr. Horrible panel.)

Is direct interaction with fandom the new Web frontier?

I was all set to note Brea Grant's comment that ""It's an official time-passer on the set," except that I find that Greg Grunberg is using it for really good purposes. On the other hand, I find this sort of depressing and in some ways odd. I think for actors it can make a lot of sense; for one thing, they are often left sitting around on set waiting to get called, and this does allow them to provide information in real time to their fans. On the other hand, for many it is nothing more than a marketing tool; you are not really a friend of the actor, but a "friend." And of course, if you self select doing that, fine. But I also see people who should be working twittering instead, with the incorrect assumption that to twitter is to work- which, for example, if you are a writer, is not true. But certainly Felicia Day does not really have 131,000 friends; she has 131,000 fans interested enough to tune in to hear her brief thoughts. Given that number of fans, TV is missing the boat with her....
@Dana5140: Not to be to specific, but I see it differently, you "follow" people which is the same thing, but it can easily put fans and friends under the same label.

It's half a self-promotion tool and half not. Some people are funny and interesting whilst others just tweet their latest chatshow. ;/

Anyway, I saw this article yesterday following Greg's tweet. :P
I don't think anyone that is following any of the actors or writers that have a twitter account are under any delusion that they are friends with that person. And if someone is using it to promote their own thing and have people interested enough in them to follow their tweets, then I don't see anything wrong with it. If one were to get annoyed by all the self promotion, all you have to do it stop following that person.
I don't know why anyone would have the expection that they were somehow "friends" with someone whose tweet you follow - unless you were friends with them to begin with. Of course there is a marketing component, but, wh not?

My favorite Tweeter is Stephen Fry. Funny, smart man who is currently filimg a nature/ travel series in Mexico. If I didn't follow his tweets, I would never have known about his "Stephen Fry in America" series, which was one Brit's eye view of the colonies.
Yeah, most people on twitter knows it's not the number of followers (though that can be fun), it's the interaction. Lots of 'Social Media Gurus' think they're doing great when actually half of their followers are bots. It's funny that they cited @GregYaitanes as his is a protected account (i.e., you can't see his tweets at all unless he wants you to).

You either get twitter or you don't. @FoxBroadcasting does not get it. @NASA does. Twitter is part chat room, part search engine, part fan club, part PR, part blog, part sales portal, part whatever you want to make of it. Most of the celebritwitters only follow a few people but have learned to use the search function for feedback from the thousands of people who follow them. @wendilynnmakeup (Heroes) plays trivia and other games with her followers and posts tons of pics of Heroes stars. Lots of entertainment industry critics and bloggers give advance snippets from reviews and stories. If Dollhouse doesn't get renewed, we may hear about it first from Joss here on the W, but the rest of the world will hear about it first on twitter.

Edited to clarify protected accounts.

[ edited by cabri on 2009-03-05 00:35 ]
"I don't think anyone that is following any of the actors or writers that have a twitter account are under any delusion that they are friends with that person." Oh, you should see some of the sites and comments I have seen. I am not sure I would completely agree. But I understand the point.

My biggest concern is that it can waste more productive time. Had the net existed when I was doing my first textbook, it would have taken me a lot longer to get it done. I spend nearly my entire day on the computer as it is, and I don't feel I get as much done as in the days when I did not have one. But as always that's just me.
Well for me it is quite the time waster. But it's because I've chosen to catch up with my twitter community and my whedonesque community rather than to be on twitter just because.

Facebook & Myspace, on the other hand, can be quite the non-community time-wasters. To "update/upgrade" your site, add applications, find cool backgrounds... defeats the purpose of the social community. You spend more time tweaking your own site or playing with applications than you do with actual connection.

That's why I like Twitter & Whedonesque. There are no "real" profiles, the format can not be changed, and you say what you need to say & that's it. These two are more about communication and connection to the world than previous counter-parts.

So I may waste my time on the net with these places, but I can easily (and just did) waste my time communicating with co-workers instead of working. To me they're interchangeable.
Another Twitterer is Michael Muhney (from Veronica Mars and avowed Whedon fan). I wouldn't say in a million years that we are "friends" but I have responded to some of his tweets and he has, in turn, replied to me. It is interaction unlikely to occur anywhere else.
Amber Benson and Adam Busch both tweet, Juliet Landau has just started but either hasn't quite got the idea or the temperament for it - I'm not sure which.
The number of people following Felicia and many other celebrities, have become massively inflated over the past month or so. Check on any of their followers, and odds are it will be somebody who has signed up very recently, has no icon, a person's full name matched with a weird handle, has posted at most one generic tweet, has no followers, and follows nothing but celebrities or other major feeds (often exactly 20 of them).

I don't know if these are real people being signed up en masse by some twitter fasttrack system somewhere, or if it's bots, or maybe even the Twitter owners themselves trying to inflate their user base in anticipation of a buyout. It's damned strange if you ask me.
I follow Amber Benson, Felicia Day, and Wil Wheaton and it's a lot of fun. :)
Today I saw Guy Kawasaki's presentation about Twitter and Twitter Hawk at an ecommerce convention in Salt Lake City. He was catching people in the audience twittering about him as he spoke, it was funny.
Twitter's that thing that takes up space in your LJ friends list.

Don't get it, myself. I'm with Jon Stewart.
Well now I have to join Twitter, just cause Felicia and Amber are awesome!
I dropped my Facebook account last week. And if it wasn't for having most of the Big Damn Heroes
as "friends" I would delete my Myspace too. It's nice to say I have Nathan, Jewel, and Adam in my
top friends. But I hardly go there at all, if ever. If I click on anyone else's site it takes forever to load
because of all the apps on it and I just don't have that kind of time. So I have made it my priority to
hang out more with my friends in real life. And Twittering, I'm on there somehow. Don't know how
I am but I keep getting email notices that people are following me.

That's nice. I like to lead.
Social Media is kind of my main job. So, that disclaimer is out of the way.

The long and short answer is - yes, direct contact is the best way to market these days.

You and I both know that 1) people see less and less of the ads that are put out because of DVR or just plain glossing over them. Traditional marketing tactics don't work as well or give the same ROI (return on investment) as this 'new' idea of directly connecting with your fans. 2) there's a lot of imposters out there on social network sites. Actors and creative people especially want to be able to control their image and the best way to do that is to show up on a site and say "that's enough people - this is the real XYZ".

People enjoy access to stars, that's why gossip blogs, candid shots, etc are a big business. If that access is moderated by the celb themselves, they can control it and not be seen as a jerk. I think that's why Ashton and Demi Moore do it, it's a way to give people that glimpse in a way they feel comfortable with.

As for up and comers like Felicia Day Twitter is a way to amass an army. The moment she says something or asks for somethig she's got a huge base of people who will do it. That's extremely powerful. And the fans get something back because she does communicate in a "social media friend' kind of way.

Twitter is one of those things that isn't really awesome until you have a good group of people to follow - so I understand people not getting it. I've been on since March '07 - so if you don't quite "get it" - try following some more people. Felicia has a great blog post about that -

If you still don't get it, don't worry. You don't -have- to.
Twitter's that thing that takes up space in your LJ friends list.

Even though I love Twitter, I actually agree with you on this. LJ+Twitter is not a good match. Twitter is so immediate and fleeting whereas I expect more thought behind the posts in my flist. Now, if LJ made a widget for Twitter instead that would be okay.
I like Twitter. It's where I share my randomness with the willing. I delete fake spammer-type followers several times a week. They're annoying, but far less numerous than the silly Facebook invites I ignore and the gloriously awful spam emails I delete on the hour.
I sit around at home with my kids all day and check this site and a couple others on my iPhone every few minutes. Nobody wants to hear me tweet about my boring day, so it's rather pointless for me. However, I can see the benefits for those with lives. I do like knowing what some of my favorite Whedonite actors are up to. My high point for the day was when Amber sent me a tweet saying "thanks for the follow-look forward to your tweets". I'm sure she responds something similar to all that follow her, but I like that she takes the time to respond to her fans.
I think twitter requires a cell phone that was made since 2001, so I won't be playing.

What? It still works.
Twitter doesn't require a cell phone at all. You can tweet at your computer or on your cell.
There's also a lot of "Twitter clients" that make Twitter as easy as Instant Messaging (Digsby is great and free if you're on PC). You can also update other social sites like Facebook and get Gmail alerts on it.
Twitter is like High School. You follow a lot of cool people and everyone ignores you. :P
Twitter is evolving rapidly and is now the place for me to pick up news from my inside and outside my industry. Rather than laboriously having to check checking thousands of blog feed items, the news is now filtered by knowledgeable people who I choose to follow.

Twitter is searchable and produces lists of trending topics. Breaking news arrives faster on Twitter than it does on Google, or in my news feeds. You can also use it for Q&A - ask the hive mind.

Other than that, it is also a way to keep up with my friends who all live abroad, in a 'how was your day' way.

On top of that, it's a way of getting to know my colleagues, without having to go by their desk and actually, you know, talk to them. Which is great for mysanthropists like me. ;-)

The 'always on' factor reminds me a lot of IRC in the old days. You're always there. Don't have to say anything, just 'idle', but you're there if someone needs ya.

The artist I works for is a technophobe. The only way I could entice him to do anything remotely 'social' was to make him send text messages to twitter. He doesn't interact with his followers, but we use the Twitter feed on the frontpage of his website, so it keeps a 'recently updated' feel. I hope to teach him to respond to followers eventually.
I'm still trying to figure out how it's making any money at the moment. The backers must have deep pockets.
@ lioness Juliet Landau has just started but either hasn't quite got the idea or the temperament for it - I'm not sure which.

I agree. I was a bit disappointed.
To be honest, I think @julietlandau is tweeting an accurate record of what she's doing at any given hour. She's just not adding any adjectives or adverbs to it. I live for adjectives and adverbs.

For instance, instead of "rehearsed all day , shopping for wardrobe" I would prefer "zomg rehearsed all frakking day, now shopping for fabulous wardrobe!" ;-D

Of course, she is incredibly busy right now so I don't really blame her. I just wish ...
You are giving her too much credit. Recent tweets from Juliet include "gym" and "rehearsal". I think it's pretty awesome that in a world of 140 character tweets, she never even comes close.
Why the heck does anyone care if a celebrity is rehearsing or shopping, adjectives or not? The tweets I've seen on LJ from my friends are all pretty inane.

Sorry. Still don't get it.
See, remember when Felicia Day was "caught" twittering while sitting up on the dais during her con presentation panel? It is possible to get addicted to this, too. But today, in the NY Times, I saw this letter:

"To the Editor

Re “What Are You Doing? Media Twitterers Can’t Stop Typing,” by Alessandra Stanley (TV Watch column, Feb. 28):

Twitter cuts both ways. There is certainly something refreshing about (apparently) uncensored, direct communication among people. But while perhaps intended to connect and inform, Twitter and other similar venues (like Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs and reality TV) can become an addictive distraction in life.

They can be yet another means to dissipate our attention, get caught in seductive details and take us away from being present in the moment of our own lives and to the issues that affect our lives.

What are the implications of my feeling a sense of connection with someone I don’t really know (a TV celebrity) through his sharing with me that he is done with rehearsal and about to have a bagel before the show? What’s missing in our more immediate day-to-day lives that this would draw us in?

And what’s happening in our lives (individually and as a society) that we may want to avoid, such that we are open to (and perhaps yearning for) distraction?

I am not a Twitter-basher. I simply offer a caution that we be self-reflective about its impact on our lives personally and as a society.

Julie Engel Manga
Brookline, Mass., Feb. 28, 2009"
? The tweets I've seen on LJ from my friends are all pretty inane.

I've got mine down to an artform.
I don't follow celebrities because I care if they are at rehersal or not. I follow them because at some point they are going to tweet about a project they want to point everyone too and if I'm a fan already, then of course I'm going to be interested in that. Some use it for fun. Brent Spiner is hilarious. As is Michale Mulhunney. (He's starting a "fight club", but shhh... don't talk about it.)
The thing with twitter that is unlike MySpace or Facebook the celebs don't automatically have to follow one back, so really I do not understand how anyone could be under any illusions of mutual friendship on twitter. I follow a lot of people that do not follow me back- which is fine by me. But if someone isn't interested enough in what you are doing to follow your 140 character tweets, then you aren't friends.
I also use my twitter to follow news agencies like my local news, CNN, NY Times Books, NY Times Science, NPR, and sites like for their deal of the day, NASA, ETSY, and ect. because those are things I'm interested in. Rather than browse the internet, twitter lets the internet come to me. I'm not more distracted then I was before. I'm the same distracted but with a more focused area to browse from.

"I've got mine down to an artform."

If by artform you mean frustratingly vague yet hilarious, then yes you do. ;P
I think people are confusing the tool and one possible use of it. Following celebrities is just one thing among many you can do. And it's not any more addictive or potentially productivity draining than email chatter, social network accounts, instant messaging, texting, chatrooms, or posting comments to a community weblog.
So lots of people have given many reasons to use Twitter, and many different uses for it. The people who are still saying 'I don't get it' either aren't reading other people's posts, or will never get it/don't want to. Or they're dismissing something they've only vaguely heard of, and not experienced. Which, I guess, is fine.

Why do I care what a celebrity ate? I don't. Some celebrities are better at Twitter than others. (Gosh, it's almost like they are... human beings. I know, it's an outlandish notion.) I unsubscribe from the ones that tweet the mundane. Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross however, always have either something interesting to say or link to, or something funny AND engage with their audience. Fry isn't new to this, besides being an actor, writer, presenter and all round celebrity... he's also a geek. A geek surpreme. He was online in 1995, e-mailing back anyone who cared to e-mail him. So it all depends on the person, really. Fry is better at tweeting than tons of well known web pundits who did excel at blogging. There's people on there whose blogs I've admired and read for ages, who turn out to be dead annoying on Twitter. It's a different art form.
For me it lets me track things that'd be harder to follow in other formats. General political wonkery here in DC, specific political stuff I'm interested in like the Prop 8 court case people are livetweeting right now, fandom chatter.

Right now my page has Prop 8 opening arguments, a multiple-way conversation about comics, news that a bank here is probably about to fail, and a little bit of randomness.
Twitter's one of those fun and cool Internet experiments that may have reached a tipping point with users-- but whether it will survive is another matter. To follow on Simon's comment, I'm not sure there is a workable financial model at the moment-- which they freely admit is the case: "While our business model is in a research phase, we spend more money than we make."

Not to be a downer, but with the current economic situation, Twitter's days (at least as a totally free, independent service) may be numbered; especially after Facebook's announced changes today, which will mirror some of Twitter's functionality.

[ edited by Whedonage on 2009-03-05 20:40 ]
I would introduce premium user accounts where people could post 150, 160 or 170 characters and get charged accordingly. And on the celebrity thing, I was teaching today in class and one of my final year students signed up to Twitter purely just to follow Chris Moyles (a British DJ).
I have WeatherBug on my computer and every once in a while it will ask me what ads I want that surround the weather portion of WeatherBug. Maybe Twitter could do something like that. Give each user a bit of a choice just a certain number of available ads (that have paid for the priviledge of being offered to twitter users) would show up in their side bar and also get revenue from the clicks on the ads themselves.
Twitter is gearing up to be a search engine for what is happening 'now' and are looking to compete with Google. Their investors see $$-opportunities in that and it's apparently why they turned down Facebook's multimillion buy out offer last year.
Can anyone hazard a guess as to whether @joshwhedon or @josswhedon are fans or Mr W?
I just love it when people don't get my humor. Makes me feel smarter than them. ;)

As far as Twitter, the talk about a search engine for current info is nice but it makes me think of thousands of corporate spammers trying to bump up their company's search results. *sighs*
I've belonged to social networking sites since friendster '03, with stops along the way to tribe, orkut, & everyonesconnected and some I'm sure I've forgotten. I still belong to myspace and facebook, but twitter has been my Big Love for about a year.

What I liked best about most of these sites is pretty much embodied in twitter - sharing current info with a group of similarly-interested folks, without a lot of other hooey. I've gotten to know better some people I already knew online, connected with others it's unlikely I would have interacted with before twitter & which has been worthwhile, shared info about earthquakes a few seconds after their occurrence, participated in political activity organized within a few hours, and better understood the breakfast habits of my peers and my betters. ; > I've been recommended books, articles and websites by people whose opinions I've come to value. I've received advice on questions that range from computers and vacations to grieving. I vent about my annoying customers, and thus am calmer for those interactions. I get inspired by people's creativity, informed by their intelligence, and amused by their wit.

If I need to talk longer than 140 characters at a time, I'll blog, but so far, it hasn't felt very confining - despite my tendency to be longwinded. They are other venues - like whedonesque - where I can talk at greater length. I keep twitter open on my computer desktop, and check it while I work or play - the character limit makes it easier to read & share even when I'm busy.

I remove spammers within seconds of their following me, dislike being marketed to or sold stuff on twitter & I unfollow anyone whose tweets are annoying or too markety or empty-cluttery-noisy.

So it's like life - I respond favorably and with praise to what interests me and I'll follow it up, I tend to ignore what seems empty or neutral, and speak out when something is offensive or problematic. If necessary, I move away, or report something, or take action. I laugh a lot. Folks are messy and complicated in real life, and they are messy and complicated online. Many folks are interesting, and many folks are not particularly. I like it. It's just more of what I like.

It's been called "ambient intimacy" - which I suppose says something meaningful about the nature of some of the communications - but it's not always either or both. You can tweet a number of times a day, or skip tweeting altogether for a week. You can pour your heart out or just watch. You can offer help or click ahead to the next page. It's up to you.

You just hafta be choosy about who you follow and try to be smart about how you treat people. It's a lot like life, but you don't have to worry about your outfit.

And Simon on twitter is enigmatic and cypher-iffic.

Re: @josswhedon or @joshwhedon - my guess is they're both fans - the correctly-spelled one didn't show up until after we joshed the josh-y one...
Lots of interesting and insightful comments about Twitter here. I have to pick and choose my battles, and Facebook (and, well, Whedonesque. Every now and again) is about all I can manage. And I quite value the pure soothing isolation of simply not being in touch with anybody - except for, you know, my kids or parents.

Even so, since I'm approximately 3 years behind every curve, I expect to be using Twitter in 2011 or thereabouts. :-)

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