In the six days since he joined Twitter, Kanye West has popped off no less than 172 missives. It’s been a furious pace for the social Web newcomer, as he’s unleashed a seemingly nonstop stream of wacky non sequiturs (“Fur pillows are hard to actually sleep on”), statements of self-inspiration (“working on being a doper person”), and glimpses into his larger-than-life existence (“I replaced my bottom row of teeth with diamonds”).
After lying low in the aftermath of his 2009 VMA dustup with Taylor Swift , Kanye is back — and people are loving it. But can he keep up the tweet-a-minute rate after the newness wears off? Will he eventually tire of the social Web? And could the whole experiment be setting him up for another public meltdown?
“He can’t keep it up,” Dave Larson, a social Web expert with 200,000 Twitter followers, told MTV News. “He has too many tweets to follow easily, and is very self-promotional. People tire of that pretty quickly, and celebrities get angry when they get the huge amount of criticism Twitter can generate.”
Celeb Twitters come in all varieties. Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, for example, have made it a priority to interact with their fans online, retweeting content and replying to messages. Conan O’Brien, by contrast, sends out about one jokey tweet per day but has not created a two-way interactive street with his followers. Yet all three of these celebs maintain huge follower counts, proving there’s no one path toward effective Twitter use. And while some social Web experts may not think Kanye is setting himself up for long-term Twitter success, others disagree, pointing to the rapper’s particular style.
“Since all the tweets are mainly his random thoughts, he doesn’t have to keep up to any pace except the one he wants to set for himself,” Scott Stratten, president of an online marketing firm called UnMarketing, told us. “There is a difference if a celeb comes on and starts interacting with fans and creates the expectation that they’re there for conversation, that’s when burnout can happen. His is more of a dictation-style account without interaction.”
What gives Kanye’s feed added value is the fact that it seems as if you’re being directly plugged into his brain: The filter is gone and what’s left is the digital equivalent of hanging out next to West as he spews thought after thought. His Twitter is funny, bizarre, completely random and grammatically challenged — and that’s only what you get in a few minutes. In short, it’s him. At least, it feels that way, even if, Chris Latko a Web developer with more than 220,000 followers, believes otherwise.
“I strongly suspect that he has a PR team that either filters or edits tweets coming from him or a ghost writes the material,” Latko said. “They’ll never burn out. And his handlers will make sure to sanitize anything controversial.”
Contrast Kanye’s Twitter, then, to Leonardo DiCaprio’s, which he clearly does not handle himself and which has a decidedly corporate feel to it. No surprise, then, that despite having the #1 movie in the country for three straight weekends, the “Inception” star has barely more than 200,000 followers.
As magical as his Twitter has been, though, Kanye (and perhaps, whoever is helping him) has set himself a tall task: to keep up both the pace and the, well, Kanye-ness. Or perhaps that might not be his task at all, as Larson argues.
“You get more publicity and retweets from sending lots of tweets, but over time you lose some followers because you drown out everyone else they are following,” he explained. “It’s good to start fast and ease up. If he does that, he should be fine.”
But will his fans want him to ease up? And what happens if his fans — or his haters — start to toss a little too much criticism his way? Just look to Kevin Smith’s Twitter troubles for an example of how fans can quickly turn on a celeb. For a guy who’s not always exercised good judgment in public, is Twitter setting up Kanye for another ghastly fall?
“Twitter is so reaction-based that it’s the perfect storm to get him into trouble again, but I think that’s part of his plan,” UnMarketing’s Stratten said. “The worst thing that can happen to a celeb, especially in the music biz, is apathy. People were getting sick of the Kanye act that peaked at the Taylor Swift incident . This is certainly a great way for him to get back into the spotlight. The true test will be a month from now when it’s no longer new that he’s on there and whether he’ll still be committed and if people will still care.”
Do you think Kanye is overdoing it with the tweets? Share your social-networking advice for the rapper in the comments!