Friday, June 26, 2009

10 rules of twittertainment I learned from @bettydraper

I was thrilled to be part of the recent 140 Conference in New York, a diverse gathering of social media players from around the world. (Video of sessions available here.)

 Illustrator Jonny Goldstein took marvelous visual notes of our Mad Men on Twitter panel. (Hope he got one of the twittertinis served by Frank Adman recently outed as David Benardo.) 

I had the chance to meet tweeters I've admired from afar. Including @SavvyAuntie (Melanie Notkin) who's just signed with TNT to live-tweet Saving Grace. And now that Brillstein Entertainment has teamed up with Amy Ephron to do a reality series based around twitter, I'm thinking maybe twittertainer will be a bona fide job description someday.

So, for those looking to hone skills, here's a few tips I've learned from @BettyDraper:

1. Reserve character names in several iterations. (At least @firstname and @first_name) 

2. "Adopt" more than one character so you can stage spontaneous scenes which won't work as well if you have to wait to coordinate time zones and schedules with other writers. Novelists and playwrights speak for more than one character. A good writer can handle multiple characters just as successfully in this medium. Imbue each with a separate personality as distinctive on twitter as it is on TV. 

3. Don't deviate from storyline. You're looking to extend viewers' interest in the show, not showcase your own scriptwriting talents. If you go off storyline, fans will feel betrayed. The most common praise from Mad Men on twitter fans is how good we are at staying in character.

4. Remember, fans play a large role in twittertainment. Don't broadcast show schedules and timing. Twittertainment works only if it's entertainment. Engage fans by interacting with them, not just other characters. Incorporate fan tweets into your stream. Build out your character with Linked-in, Facebook, even a personal blog. @BettyDraper recognizes twitter fans in some of her blog posts. She also hosts (virtual) parties in Ossining to which not only characters, but fans are invited.

5. You don't have to respond to every tweet. Only answer questions that appeal to a broader audience. And when responding to tweets, incorporate the question into the answer, so followers will know what's going on. 

6. The shorter your tweet, the more retweetable . Two of the most retweeted Betty posts are the blandest : "Tying a scarf" and "Frosting cupcakes."

7. Get the details right. Fictional characters must be perceived as authentic. (!)  Part of what makes Mad Men on twitter work is ferocious devotion to period detail. I was born the same year Sally Draper was, so am personally acquainted with the 60s, but I don't trust details of the era to the memory of a child. I have an entire collection of vintage cookbooks and housekeeping manuals so that tweets will contain historically accurate references like "Rob Roys" and "bluing."

8. Use Twitter's "real time" advantage to dimensionalize posts. Mad Men characters still immersed in the 60's "unwittingly" comment on real time events. On January 20, Inauguration Day, Betty tweeted "Shocked by a colored man swearing on television." When Matt Weiner was honored by the Clios in Las Vegas, Mad Men tweeted from the CLIOs in 1963, from the Waldorf Astoria, where the Clio's that year had a Las Vegas theme.

9. Writing twittertainment is surprisingly time consuming, requiring time for not only posting, but research and reading and monitoring tweet streams of other characters. Don't expect it's something you or someone else can do in just a few minutes a day. And if you're looking to hire, don't just look for a good writer. Look for someone energetic and outgoing who loves to perform. Twittertainment is equal parts writing and improv. 

10. Have fun! Once your characters take up residence outside the (tv) box, there's no telling where their adventures will lead them. And you. 


Ryan Drumwright said...

Hi Helen,

This is wonderful. Thank you so much for posting this. There is so much to learn from this post. It amazes me how much research goes into the art of twittertainment. I think that is part of the reason why you have been so successful.

Keep on tweeting and blogging great content like this. Talk to you later.


LifePositiveWay said...

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Blog Team

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

@Ryan Thanks for kind words. This post was (sort of) written for you. Glad you found something of use and hope it helps in your adventures at Sony :)

@LifePositiveWay Interesting, your seeing this nascient medium as art. Like you, I am fascinated by possiblities of the evolving form.

LifePositiveway said...

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It is sometime that i find ad which is such impressive that, i can't stop from appreciating them.
After checking your blog i spend much time, reading and checking the content here, i was so much impressed that i comment on it.
Recently i have been much impressed with the lovely yet cute ad of Vodaphone.
And here your creation have impressed me.
Wish you all the best. Keep it up.

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Crock said...

Fantastic and wonderfully helpful.

And yes, I am fully aware I'm responding to an ancient post of two months ago. That's how helpful it is; it has lasted down through countless twitterverse ages.