The Do's and Don't's of Fake Tweeting
Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., adviser Eric Fehrnstrom admitted Wednesday that he was behind the fake Twitter account @CrazyKhazei, used to poke fun at Democratic Senate candidate Alan Khazei. The Khazei campaign has subsequently said Brown should denounce @CrazyKhazei's tweets, and ask that the Twitter account be closed.
As our colleague Sean Sullivan has pointed out, fake Twitter handles are nothing new. Still, the recent Bay State dust up has reminded us here at The Hotline that there is etiquette to fake Twitter accounts. Below is a handy list to keep in mind if you too are planning on pulling a Fehrnstrom:
1) Get into character. When in the right hands, the gimmick proves to be effective. Columbia College of Chicago journalism professor Dan Sinke eloquently illustrates this point when tweeting from famed fake Twitter account @MayorEmanuel. An important amendment to this rule: make sure you are actually funny. This is one of the many downfalls of @FlitRomney.
2) Use animals. They are cute, friendly, and who can stay mad at them? Before the mouse's untimely death, @PoliticoMouse captivated Tweeps with banter and a history of "winning the cheese since 2007." The lovable rodent even had a frenemy in New York Times' @nyt_mouse, who also proved to be informative. Here's a sample tweet of the native New Yorker during the debt ceiling debate. @nyt_mouse: "Latenight newsroom pizza! RT @BreakingNews House Majority Whip: Members...stay nearby...we still expect to vote tonight-NBC News."
One candidate that has been overlooked in the Utah governor's race is Snowball, a feral cat who tweets about the issues from his @UTferalcat account. Snowball's decision to run grew in response to Utah state Rep. Curt Oda, who sponsored the so-called "feral cat" bill, allowing animals deemed pests to be shot. According to his bio, Snowball's decision to run was a way to give voice to "threats to the feral cat way of life coming from the Utah Legislature."
3) Keep it silly. The point of a fake Twitter account is to be real enough that even a reasonable person may at first do a double-take and wonder, "Is this legit?" That's where your flirtation with reality should end. It's an arguably fine line, but there comes a point where some Twitter accounts cross the line from funny into identity theft, and sometimes truly creepy territory. As a general rule, incorporating real life characters into a joke is a great idea. Referencing your persona's interactions with his real life wife and children, without punch lines, is creepy. If you find yourself typing the words "this really is (insert your persona's name here)," as @GeorgeBush did, stop and think about getting a hobby.