Theater of the Tweet

Posted on August 17, 2011

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Here are a few recent tweets from the Cobra at the Bronx Zoo (@BronxZoosCobra) who has over 228,000 followers:

When will I learn not to plan an escape with unreliable peacocks? RT @eyewitnessnyc Wild bird escapes Central Park Zoo http://t.co/FbwBwOh

Ever wondered what it would be like to walk on the surface of the sun? Then come by the Bronx Zoo today. It’s 1 million degrees in NYC.

It’s National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, so give your zookeeper a big hug and carefully steal their keys. I’ll be waiting.

For any host who’s show has, or is considering using, characters, there is a lot to be learned from people who have developed successful faux Twitter personas.

Fast Company recently interviewed the people behind three popular faux accounts: “The Bill Walton,” (@TheBillWalton), “Not Burt Reynolds,” (@NotBurtReynolds) and “Fake AP Stylebook,” (@FakeAPStyleBook).

Here are a few comments that stood out to me about building a character:

  • Start with Something Familiar: The creator of faux Burt Reynolds says it’s easier for the audience to identify with a character when there is a strong point of reference like Reynold’s movies and off-screen reputation.
  • Understand Your Character: The guys who write faux-Bill Walton say they started with a healthy knowledge of Walton’s catch phrases from his work as a broadcaster but also used a number of fan sites to learn about the former player’s views on life.
  • Grow Your Character: The fake Bill Walton team also says that, over time, it’s important to add fictional attributes to the character so there’s room to grow creatively.
  • A Shred of Truth Goes a Long Way: While sometimes they just tweet about whatever catches their attention, the Fake AP Stylebook team says the tweets that get the most traction tend to be the ones actually inspired by grammar and writing guides.

Not only are these great suggestions but they also show how social media could help a show expand and flesh out characters beyond just being a voice on the air.

Putting that another way, if your characters don’t have an active Twitter account and Facebook page then you are being outmarketed by a thumbless cobra from the Bronx.

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