When it comes to Twitter, I like to think that I fly by the seat of my pants. I don’t have hard and fast rules like some people do for using the popular micro-blogging service. Robert Scoble has poked fun at such rules like “Don’t follow them unless they follow you”, “Never Tweet more than five times a day” and “Never follow anyone who isn’t your real friend”. But after many months of following several so-called “celebrities” on Twitter, I’m rapidly forming a rule regarding the rich and famous. Don’t follow them unless they are willing to reply to you.
I tried following one of my all-time favorite celebrities on Twitter for several months. Wil Wheaton starred in TV shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation and movies like Stand By Me. He’s become something of an icon on the internet as a well-known blogger, professional poker player and writer. I figured it would be cool to know what Wil was up to at any given moment and so I went to his Twitter page and pressed the follow button. Getting his tweets was fun for a while, but from time to time I’d send him @replies regarding things he was tweeting and he would never reply. I complimented him, I asked a couple questions but still nothing. He made me feel like a geek at a Trek convention kindly asking for his autograph all the while refusing to even acknowledge me. Finally I had enough and decided to un-follow him, and I’ve never looked back.
Now the same thing is happening with John Hodgman. John is a talented writer who everyone knows from the “Get a Mac” TV commercials. I’ve read two of Hodgman’s books because his humor and sensibilities appeal to me. I’ve tweeted him 3 times but have not received a single reply. Yet another epic fail.
I realize that neither Wheaton or Hodgman are obliged to respond to fans like myself. They are busy individuals who probably get dozens of tweets and emails every day. But they have decided to become part of the Twitter community and I think showing your followers some love every now and then is just common courtesy. I’m not asking to form a deep relationship with you Wil. I just wanted to express my congratulations on nailing that Terminator audition for Pete’s sake! Would it kill you to reply “Hey, thanks man”?
Thankfully not all celebrities on Twitter are so aloof. Head to Greg Grunberg’s (of NBC’s Heroes) Twitter page and you’ll note a whole lot of @reply messages going out to his fans. I’d like to think this is because Greg has the good sense to use an awesome tool like Twitterrific to read and post tweets. Twitterrific highlights @replies and direct messages so you can easily see them in your timeline. For all of John Hodgman’s internet savviness, sadly he still does most of his tweeting directly from the web and probably doesn’t bother to pay attention to @replies. Maybe the Iconfactory needs to write that PC version of Twitterrific after all. Get it? A PC VERSION!
Before the internet, people had to put pen to paper to write fan mail to those they admired. Many celebrities would respond with autographs, 8×10 glossies or maybe even a personal note. Twitter has done away with all that tedious fan mail business, but even though it only takes seconds to reply to a tweet, many superstars refuse to even try. So the next time you send us 140 character pitches for your new book or alert us about your upcoming TV appearances, try and remember the most important rule of all. No matter how much money you make or how famous you are, treat others as you would have them treat you. Try talking to us instead of at us. A little love goes a long way.
UPDATE: Anyone in the comment thread that thinks celebrities are too busy or too important to respond to fans should go read this. Not only is that assumption patently false it’s insulting. Some celebrities actually care about their fans. Others do not. Shaquille O’Neal, I’m pleased to report, is in the former category. The positive press and fan devotion generated from what happened in this story are perfect examples of why @replies matter.