Leveraging the web to launch your comedy brand hasn’t been a secret since Dane Cook rode the MySpace meteorite all the way to next-lev stand-up rockstardom. And if you’re keeping an eye on the Social Media Stratosphere, you know that all the real deals are happening on Twitter these days. Showbiz Execs are now spending upwards of 97% of their working hours scouring the micro-blogging platform to find nuggets of cleverness that can be turned into big Hollywood comedy deal memos. So if you’re looking to expand your stand-up brand 140 characters at a time, here are 7 tips to help you become the Dane Cook of Twitter.
1. Figure Out Who To Follow – There are only three types of people you should be following: 1) other comedians and celebs who have more followers or a better career than you, 2) ‘industry suits’ using Twitter to prove they are also funny/talented/creative, and 3) Random Internet Groupies (RIGs) who re-tweet your jokes a lot and seem to look pretty hot in their tiny little Twitter pictures.
As a general rule, you should avoid following anyone less famous than you or, god forbid, random friends and family who are comedy/showbiz civilians (this isn’t FarmVille). Following too many people will make you look desperate, but you’ve got to follow people to get followers. Finding your own delicate algorithm of follower-calculus is like a really difficult game of self-promotional chess, but nobody said success would be easy. But while cultivating this carefully-curated list of people you follow because they can either help you or are attractive sycophants who can be used for sex/ego-boosting, I suggest you aim for at least 5 Followers for every 2 Comedians, 1 Suit and 1 RIG you follow. That’s the Golden Follower Ratio – 5 : 2 : 1 : 1. Figure it out.
2. Brag Often, But Brag Effectively – No matter how huge or insignificant your each professional accomplishment may seem, you always need to Tweet about it so other people will see that your brand is growing and thriving. Did you crush a killer headlining gig last night (or at least do a tight two-and-a-half at an open mic that wasn’t an unmitigated disaster)? Were you at a secret underground showcase in a dirty shed where Zach Galifianakis did a ‘drop-in’ set that blew everyone’s minds? Were you hanging out at a bar after a UCB show with someone who is on television? Did your Tumblr about Hipster Horses just get set up as a three-picture cross-platform franchise deal at NBC-Universal? Well if you don’t tell us on Twitter, it’s basically like these things didn’t even happen.
But before you launch a relentless Tweet-based PR campaign, BE WARNED: there is an art to self-promoting without sounding like an arrogant douche, and self-deprecation is the palette you will need to paint from. Frame your next brag against something that seems lame or embarrassing, like, “Woah, I was just named one of ComedyBlog’s 10 Biggest LOL-Bringers and now I’ve got a meeting with Jerry Bruckheimer. Guess all those abortions finally paid off!”
3. ABC: Always Be Congratulating – When a peer brags on Twitter about landing a big part or doing a cool show or getting a major Showbiz Deal, always be sure to publicly congratulate them. First of all, it shows everyone that you’re ‘In the Know’ and you ‘Get It’, which are both good for your own brand. Secondly, the person you congratulate might notice your kind gesture, and remember it at some future date when they are in a position to help you out. Even if they don’t brag about their accomplishment (which would suggest that their success is probably just luck as opposed to solid social media strat), but you happen to read about it while scanning the trades, make a big show of congratulating them anyway.
Again, it projects an image of industry insideryness, but also selflessness and genuine interest in the well-being of others, which together make for a pretty sweet personal Hollywood brand. Even if you don’t like this person, and their good news fills you with anger and frustration over your own lack of similar success, you should Tweet something like “So awesome” or “Wow, really rad” so everyone knows you’re not an insecure, overly-competitive sociopath. In fact, the more you secretly resent them, the more effusive you should make your celebration of their accomplishment. If your nemesis gets a big career-making break, you should say, “HOLY SHIT THIS IS AMAZING!!!!” and keep retweeting/reblogging it across Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Foursquare, and every other social network you’re on until you stop shaking.
4. Pander For Followers, But In a Funny Way – In the daily gold rush to become the most powerful comedy Tweeter with the biggest following in the world, you’re going to have to be ruthless. Sure, you could try to rely on the quality of your joke-writing, but while you’re crafting your little one-liner masterpiece-Tweets, people with solid Twitter strat are going to be out there hustlin’ followers by any means necessary. Here are a few proven cons for you to get you started:
a) The old “I am SO close to an arbitrary number of followers” routine – Just pick the next nice round number you’re approaching (10, 100, 1000, 2555, 1.1 million), and tweet something like, “Guys, I’m so close to (insert arbitrary number)! Help my low self-esteem by pushing me over the top!”
b) The ironic ‘please RT’ joke – Tweet about doing something mundane or embarrassing or both, then ironically ask your followers to re-tweet it. Like, “I just took a Cheetos poop. Please RT”
c) Trading Twitter-mentions for Stage Time – The comic you try to barter with will likely never respect you again, but still, you’ll probably get some more followers, which is much more valuable/important.
5. Optimize Your #FollowFriday Strat For Maximum Personal Gain – Trade Secret: the Twitter phenomenon known as #FollowFriday, which masquerades as a collective outpouring of friendship and goodwill in which we all recommend other people on Twitter for our followers to follow, is really just a chance for you to reach out to more influential people in hopes of making strategic social connections and partnerships that will someday lead to more followers/connections/opportunities. So don’t just start doling out #FollowFriday recommendations all willy-nilly. You should be keeping a painstakingly accurate spreadsheet listing the names, dates, and follower counts of all your outgoing #FollowFriday recipients, as well as the same data on all those who #FollowFriday you back. This is the only way you will be able to maintain a fair and equitable flow of Follower-sharing between you and your fellow comedians.
You’ve got to ration our your precious few* weekly #FollowFriday mentions between more influential comics whose attention you’re hoping to get, and reciprocative Follow-Back shout-outs for people who recently name-checked you. (*NOTE: Don’t just #FollowFriday everyone, because a) you’ll lose followers, and b) it’s kind of pathetic.)
6. It’s Good Strat To Know Your Stats – Without a live audience, how do you know whether you’re destroying or bombing on Twitter? By monitoring several key stat-metrics:
a) Follower Count – As close as you’ll get in this life to numeric score of your own worth.
b) @-Replies: Responses to your jokes/brags (mostly worthless because they can only be seen by people who already follow you).
c) @-Mentions: #FollowFridays, random plugs, and other assorted shout-outs that show up in everyone’s feed.
d) Re-Tweets – Along with @-Mentions, these are the Twitter equivalent to the laughs and attention our souls all so desperately need.
7. Be Funny – This one’s a no-brainer. While conventional wisdom dictates that natural comedic ability is usually something people either are or aren’t born with, there are some classic Twitter joke formulas you can follow to ensure that you get great Re-Tweets and @-Mentions:
a) Hashtagging – Word games in which two unrelated things placed together for comedic effect (like #FartMovies, for which you could joke, “The Defarted”). Hashtags can also be used indiscriminately as indicators of both premises and punchlines for your Tweets (I I could probably devote an entire column to the mysterious and myriad comedic powers hidden within the hashtag symbol as it pertains to Twitter-based humor).
b) Portmanteau – When you combine two unrelated words to make a new, funnier word. Does something this obvious and punny actually work? Portmanteautally.
c) Livetweeting Things – Rare and wonderful occasions in which a truly global event (such as The Super Bowl, The Tony Awards, catastrophic disasters, etc.) allow everyone to provide humorous narration as things unfold, in real time. Great chance to show your stuff.
Alex Blagg is an Internet comedian and renowned Social Media Strategenius who offers daily Internet insights and high-impact viral consulting services at his website, BajillionHits.Biz. He also boasts over 6,000 Twitter followers.