The elevators at the Conde Naste headquarters have ears; and apparently fingers and Internet access, too. The building is telling all via its new Twitter handle, @Condeelevator, reports The New York Observer's Kat Stoeffel. "So far, the dispatches reflect the Condé Nast we know and love: fear of Anna Wintour, food anxiety, women who date ambitiously, and male editors beleaguered by squeezing sex jokes into headlines."
Okay, so we all know elevators can't really talk--there's a human somebody crafting those 140 characters. Those people have joined a tradition of satirical Twitter accounts that have taken on the persona of someone, or in this case, something, else. (We here at The Atlantic Wire have a mouthy building who Tweets office gossip via @thewatergate.) But while there are scores of fake celebrities, buildings, and even office mice, it takes a certain something to cultivate a following and status, which is indeed possible for a totally made up handle, as accounts like The Bill Walton, Not Burt Reynolds and Fake AP Style Book--three accounts with lots of followers and book deals--prove, explains Fast Company's Adam Penenberg, who interviewed the people behind the tweets, letting us in on what separates the greats from the failures. So, @condeelevator, if you'd, one day, like to get some Twitter fame, take these note from the some pros.
Know your character. Your Twitter account has to have a consistent personality, but not necessarily the same exact persona as the famous person, or thing you intend to satirize, explain Penenberg. "To do it right is like being a method actor: You have to get inside the head of a famous person but with a twist; the post has to be funny and insightful." A fake Bill Walton that exactly mimics the real Bill Walton won't cut it.
But the account can't veer too far from the essence of its target. You have to find a balance, something that pays respects to the character, but also gives the account something special, explains the Tweeter behind The Bill Walton. "It's important to stick to the roots of the real Bill Walton, his love of nature and Guinness, his outrage when a big man doesn’t slam it hard in the paint, his love of the Celtics, his catchphrase ‘Throw It Down,’ but it's more important to offer a semi-fictional version of the man to give us room to grow creatively."
Maintain mystery. To differentiate the account from your personal handle, you have to make people forget the identity of the real Tweeter. Having a very unique voice is one way of doing this, or many faux handles don't reveal the person tweeting. "I love that we have no idea who is behind them, and that’s part of the fun," TracySefl, a Democratic strategist, told The New York Times' Ashley Parker. "The fact that people are facilitating those conversations anonymously is in many ways completely anti-Washington, where you have such a name-obsessed culture, and now some of the most pointed observations are coming from people who don’t have real names. In that regard, it’s even more perfect."
Not only can anonymity make the character more believable, but it can also elevate the status of the account, as the @MayorEmanuel saga proved. For 5 months before the Chicago election, a man tweeted as the front-running candidate, attracting almost 50,000 followers. He refused to reveal himself until after the election, only making his tweets more alluring. He finally came out as Dan Sinker to The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal.
Find a voice. People want to read entertaining or thought provoking Tweets, explains Madrigal. "People loved @MayorEmanuel first and foremost because it was funny. Sure, there were the giggles and guffaws that come with inappropriate swearing. But I think the humor of the feed as a whole had deeper roots." The beauty of taking on another persona is that you get to act a part, explains The Bill Walton. "And the best part, you can actually have a "voice": to thousands of people in the growing Twitterverse. Chase your twitter dreams!"
Do your research. The people most interested in following a faux Twitter account, deeply understand the inspiration for the fake account. So should the people who craft these fake personalities. "The tweets that seem to stick the best are inspired by the AP Stylebook, Strunk & White, or other grammar and writing guides. Some of us actually sleep with the AP Stylebook under our pillows," admits Fake AP StyleBook, who has over 200,000 followers. Similarly, The Bill Walton tweeters explain that they have studied Bill Walton's nuances on YouTube and fan sites.
Do it for the right reasons. You're setting yourself up for failure if you start a fake account just for possible future fame. "Don't set out to create a fake twitter account with the expectation of it leading to bigger and better things. Tweeters have sensitive sincerity detectors. When it stops being fun, or starts feeling like a job, reconsider why you're doing it," offers the Fake AP StyleBook. Do it because you get some sort of pleasure out of it. If you enjoy the writing, it won't matter who is listening, explains The Bill Walton. "Don’t ... fall into the very common trap of being a 'troll' in order to secure followers. While it may be the easy way, it’s not necessarily the best way."
Patience is a virtue. While Fake AP Stylebook had 9,000 followers after the first 24-hours, many Twitter accounts go unnoticed. As The Bill Walton explained, don't give up just because nobody has responded, at first. If you keep it entertaining for yourself and your loyal followers, others might come, explains Not Burt Reynolds. "It started pretty slowly so I was entertaining myself for quite a while. But I have loyal fans who introduced me to others."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.