How Twitter used Charlie Sheen to manipulate the internet

You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard the constant stream of crazy coming from Charlie Sheen.  It’s truly impressive to see that some has done some much coke that they think it should be named after them.  Much like Paris Hilton, Mel Gibson or any other celebrity meltdown, it’s hard not to watch the trainwreck.

Sheen was made for Twitter

One of the differences with this current rant is how quotable it is.  It was made it a series of faux New Yorker Cartoons.  From “I have one speed, I have one gear, GO” to “I am on a drug, it’s called Charlie Sheen” it would seem as if the rants were made for sound bytes.  And sound bytes were made for Twitter.

However, until sometime on March 1, Charlie Sheen didn’t have a twitter presence.

Somewhere around 3:00 PM that changed.  @charliesheen burst on to the scene.   He picked up thousands of twitter followers moments after being discovered.  With in a few hours, he already had in excess of 250,000 followers.

The first tweet

Once a critical mass had been reached, the first tweet is posted.  Cryptic with a bit of catch phrase, and an attached link.  “Winning..! Choose your Vice… #winning #chooseyourvice”  The link features a brand prominently placed and gets some 150,000 views.   Truly impressive for an account a few hours old.

The trick – It’s advertising.

Credit is due to Phillip Hotchkiss, the chief product officer of Klout, but the president of an advertising platform called adly posted that he and twitter signed Charlie up.  It’s about Celebrity Endorsements on Twitter.  The motivation for the new account just became clear.

250,000 people just signed up to get spammed and support an out of control celebrity.  Way to go Internet.

What can we learn from this?

As social media practitioners, there’s a lot to learn from this.  Here are some quick bullets:

  • People want to see the spectacle.  The unfiltered access to crazy was just too much to resist.
  • Strike while the iron is hot.  Two weeks from now might have been too late to start tweeting.
  • Keep it quotable.  The 140 characters of twitter are the new soundbyte.
  • Be authentic.  Charlie might be crazy, but you can’t deny that he’s really saying what’s on his mind.
  • Remember that everyone has an agenda.  Mr. Sheen not only wanted to tell his story, he wanted to make money too.

If you have other lessons, leave them in the comments


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