HOW TO BE A TWITTER HITTER – Evening Standard, 25 Jan 2013

If this year’s NME Awards nominations are anything to go by, the long-form blogs bubble has burst. A prize dedicated to the more extensive networking medium has been discarded in favour of a trophy for Best Twitter.

The battle for 140-character brilliance will be fought out on February 27 at Stepney’s Troxy — with Muse, Alana Haim, Spector’s Fred Macpherson, Theo Hutchcraft of Hurts, Wiley and MIA in the running.

It’s about time a prize acknowledged that pop rules on Twitter, where Justin Bieber has just overtaken Lady Gaga as owner of the most popular account with 33.4 million followers and counting. This is one place where Barack Obama (26 million followers) isn’t the most powerful man on earth.

It is also where we find out what our musical heroes are like, beyond the cryptic lyrics and fantasy video shoots. Those who let down their guards to reveal winning personalities behind the marketing gloss are rewarded with ballooning popularity. The service has been around long enough for there to be no excuse for big stars to do it badly. For those who recognise their failings and wish to improve, here are a few golden rules.

DO IT YOURSELF

You’re a busy person. There are guitar chords to perfect and new hairstyles to try out. But your Twitter presence is too important to be left to the label’s work experience kid. Those whose feeds consist only of album and tour date announcements are doing it wrong. We need to know what unusual items your cat dragged in, where you went for that dinner with Ronnie Corbett and about any wardrobe malfunctions. We need evidence that you’re just like us, and also that you’re not. Noel Gallagher, Nick Cave, Robbie Williams — take note.

IT’S A TWO-WAY STREET

Reply to fans asking questions (if they ask nicely) and follow people you know or admire — you might learn something. It’s worth tuning in to Graham Coxon’s regular Q&As on his feed while Bieber’s hysterical fans seem to thrive on the possibility that one day he just might follow them back.

DON’T MOAN

For examples, see the excellent @DJsComplaining, which collates remarks made by those who highlight flaws in their five-star room service and first-class flight experiences. It’s also worth referring back to the days when the glorious Kanye West was busy on Twitter (“I specifically ordered persian rugs with cherub imagery!!!”/“Fur pillows are actually hard to sleep on”). We’re sure being a globally successful pop star isn’t thrills and spills 24/7 but if you want the masses to keep worshipping you, we don’t need to hear about it.

ENTHUSE ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE’S MUSIC

Your followers are music fans and they might like to listen to songs other than your own occasionally. So go beyond relentlessly plugging your next single and talk about your friends’ bands, support acts, the classics and obscurities that inspired your own work. It shows the bigger picture and dispels any illusion that you may be a rampaging egotist.

GO BEYOND MUSIC

You’ll come across as a more rounded individual if you offer occasional glimpses into your personal life. You don’t need to post pictures of your baby in the bath (that’s what Facebook is for) and you’re probably better off telling your wife about that Fifty Shades of Grey fantasy in an email. But we’d love it if you joined in with Twitter’s communal viewing of The Great British Bake Off and we’d even tolerate your political views.

DON’T RETWEET PRAISE

Ninety per cent of pop stars are guilty of this infraction. The retweet is for sharing something someone else has said that may interest or amuse your followers. It is not widely fascinating to learn that a Calvin Harris fan thinks his album is “well butterz LOL” no matter how many smiley faces she puts after it.

LEARN TO SPELL

To many of your followers you are a god, capable of reaching dizzying new creative heights with every new album. Therefore, it’s hoped you would know the difference between “your” and “you’re”. Thankfully Courtney Love is no longer so incomprehensible that another account, @CLtranslated, was set up to make sense of her tweets. But Cher, we still have work to do.

STICK TO THE CHARACTER LIMIT

When you have an enlightening thought about being stuck on an airport runway, it’s tough to cram it into 140 characters. But tweets that require us to visit another website to read their end are tedious. The same for Instagram. Listen up, Rihanna.

CUT OUT THE SELF-HELP

If we want to know what the Dalai Lama or Paulo Coelho thinks about something, we’ll follow their Twitter feeds or, better still, buy a book.

 

DON’T TURN YOUR FANS ON YOUR CRITICS

There’s the odd celeb who finds it amusing to retweet some kid telling them they suck in order to watch their fans pile abuse on the unbeliever. Nobody comes out of this kind of situation looking good. Rise above the trolls.

Top of the pop tweeters

Tim Burgess @Tim_Burgess

The Charlatans frontman is funny, with a broad range of interests, and can be relied upon to share great music — Tim’s Breakfast Banger and Tim’s Top Two at Three — at the same time each day. And he makes virtual drinks.

Typical tweet: “I’m getting the kettle on. Who’s in — let me know which is your cup too. Need some order to this.”

Example @example

Pop’s most amusing cynic. Example’s humour is as dry as they come and though he chats with his fans, he’s not afraid to out-insult his abusers.

Typical tweet: “Not much to report today other than the fact our pilot was called Darren Snowball.”

Lily Cooper @lilyrosecooper

The artist formerly known as Lily Allen is still as sharp as she was when she first popped up on MySpace, as her tweets about the Swansea ball boy showed. She offers enough glimpses into her life to keep tabloid editors busy.

Typical tweet: “My husband is currently making me a Pantera mix cd to take to the birthing suite. #cute”

Nile Rodgers @nilerodgers

The enthusiasm of Chic’s legendary guitarist day in, day out, is infectious, especially considering he’s so open about his battle with cancer.

Typical tweet: “Between the [presidential] inauguration, writing, recording, and linking w/ old friends this has been an amazing day.”

Lady Gaga @ladygaga

The singer with the most obsessive fans must be all too aware of the fevered reaction to anything she types, but she tries hard to make the masses feel special on an individual basis.

Typical tweet: “And if you thought I was looking at you during the show I was.”

Beyoncé @Beyonce

She’s following eight people (including her sister Solange, Mariah Carey and Usher) and has tweeted only four times, but she has almost seven million followers so perhaps she understands this thing better than any of us.

Typical tweet: “This World Humanitarian Day I’m doing something good, somewhere, for someone else. Join me! #WHD2012

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