30 achy breaky Twitter mistakeys

media strategy saturday meme

Hear me now and believe me later in the week: first impressions matter more than ever.

In the old days, you got to know people because they LIVED NEXT TO YOU, or because you saw them at the feed store when you saddled up Bessie and rode there on Saturdays.

These days, you can use the Twitter or the Book of Face to meet people around the world, except for North Korea and some other places where the Series of Tubes is illegal or the secret police only let you use a pirated version of MySpace or whatever.

Online, people make a first impression about your entire life in less than two nanoseconds, based on three tiny little things:

  • your profile photo
  • your handle
  • your bio

Sidenote:  If you don’t understand the headline reference to Achy Breaky Big Mistakey, here’s the original Billy Ray Cyrus video and a link to Mullet Junky, which is guaranteed to make you feel better about your hair. Enjoy.

So, instead of giving you five big Twitter boo-boos, or seven, I’m giving you 30 dumb moves to avoid on the Twitter — ten no-no’s apiece when it comes to your profile photo, your handle and your bio.

I believe, deep in my soul, that ten times three equals thirty, or possibly 30, depending on whether you use the metric system and what edition of the AP Stylebook you sleep with.

Top 10 achy breaky big mistakeys with your profile photo

You see the worst ones on Facebook, but Twitter is not immune from wacky profile photos.

Do not:

1) Make the duck face

2) Try to be sexy

3) Flash gang signs with your hat on sideways

4) Take off your shirt to show us your tattoos or how much you enjoy fake orange Oompa Loompa spray tanning (it makes you look like a reject from Jersey Shore)

5) Pretend to chug tequila or smoke the Biggest Blunt Known to Man

6) Make the duck face while trying to be sexy, flashing gang signs with your hat on sideways, showing us your tattoos and pretending to chug tequila

7) Use a self-portrait shot on your phone, using the mirror in the bathroom (we can tell, and yes, Mirror in the Bathroom is a good tune from the GROSSE POINT BLANK soundtrack)

8) Go with extreme close-up (I see your pores!) or incredible longshot (that might be a person, or Bigfoot) or a weird angle (up your nose)

9) Use a shot with two / four / six different people and make us guess which one you might be

10) Wear sunglasses, hats and other accessories that make it impossible to tell if you’re a 12-year-old girl, a 35-year-old man or a wax dummy

Basically, don’t freak people out or make people guess who you are. And don’t try too hard.

Now, there are some variations that aren’t bad. Random photos and symbols are sometimes bad, but not always. If you’re a writer or editor, go ahead and use a photo of books as your profile shebang. Totally fine. Actors can use the Hollywood sign or the comedy and tragedy masks. WE TOTALLY GET THAT. But the weirder you get, the weirder your first impression will be.

Also: A huge STAR WARS geek can use Yoda as a profile photo. Just remember the first impression — even if you’re a 6-foot-tall redheaded supermodel — will be that you’re a short, 900-year-old frog-thing with wrinkled skin. It is not really a surprise, or remotely cool, for men to be use photos of THE MATRIX, lightsabers, Captain Kirk or Call of Duty 17: Blowing Up Stuff on Mars.  Yet it is unexpected, and therefore kinda cool, for women to be into comic books, Spock, anime and all the things that would make you say “dorkahedron who lives in mom’s basement” if a man picked it for his profile shot. This is a paradox, and possibly unfair, but tough noogies. (My AP Stylebook is silent on the correct spelling of “noogies,” so by my reckoning, I’m establishing the correct spelling right here and now, for all time.)

Top 10 achy breaky big mistakes with your handle

Also known as your name, moniker, nickname, special badge for the Series of Tubes and “what Keanu Reeves is supposed to call you when you jack into the Matrix.”

This is more of a Twitter thing, though these 10 achy breaky big mistakeys also apply to what you pick as your email address, blog title or any visible tattoo involving the alphabet rather than a drawing of Wolverine riding a My Little Pony.

Do not:

1) Use a handle that nobody can pronounce,  like “puqnI’loD,” the Klingon word for grandson (I looked that up at Klingon Language Institute, which actually exists, and this fact frightens me)

2) Throw in a bunch of slang numbers in your handle like “2legit2quit,” unless you are, in fact, MC Hammer

3) Use lots of random numbers, because everybody really, really wants to be buddies with “fred349829402”

4) Get your full first, middle, last name and favorite hobby in there, aka “LauraIngridHasselbackLOVEShorses”

5) Use initials or whatever to make it completely impossible to know whether you’re a man, woman or cyborg from the future sent to kill Sarah Connor (there is actual science here, and not just me spouting off, but that is a post for another day)

6) Be so obsessed with pimping your business, book, movie or album that your handle is simply the name of your business, book, movie or album, and once you move on to the next project, you’ll abandon that handle anyway

7) Put serious TMI into your handle, as in “singlemomthinksmenSTINK” or “stillunemployedyear3” or “livinginmomsbasementplayingcallofdutyallday”

8) Get all lovey dovey with a handle that’s a bunch of mushy nonsense about your husband, wife, kids, dog, ferret, capuchin monkey or boa constrictor, as in “debbie+fluffy4evah”

9) Appropriate the name of a celebrity, unless it’s to make fun of Snooki, Jonathan Franzen, Charlie Sheen, Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump or any of the “Real Housewives of I Don’t Care” — and yes, you should follow @EmperorFranzen and @English50cent

10) Try to be funny with some kind of gag handle, a la Bart Simpson and “@ipfreeley”

Top 10 achy breaky mistakes with your bio

It’s hard to screw up when you only have 160-characters or whatever.

Despite this challenge, there are bazillions of bios out there which are assaults upon the English language and, left unchecked, will not only tear the very fabric of society, but will rip a hole in the space-time continuum, sending Jean-Claude Van Damme back in time to battle an ancient Schwarzenegger in TERMINATOR 9: NIGHTMARE AT THE NURSING HOME.

Do not:

1) Try to give your life history, in chronological order, using Every Abbreviation Known to Man

2) Claim to be a pro photographer, Olympic gymnast, black belt in Gracie jujitsu, supermodel, billionaire CEO, secret agent, actor, bodyguard and author who also drives Indy cars–we might believe two of those, maybe three if we’re drunk, but not six or nine

3) Throw in a bunch of wacky symbols and graphics that nobody understands, or use numb3rs & txtspk 2 say what8vr u cld say uzn wrds

4) Share TMI details that nobody needs to know, like how many times you’ve been married and divorced, how many kids you have or the nicknames of your seven most favorite cats

5) Treat the Twitter, the Book of Face or any other social media shebang like it’s a dating website, telling us how you enjoy slow dances, long walks on the beach and all that nonsense — and as a bonus, here is the worst bio page ever

6) Expect us to believe you live on nine different continents by listing your “location” as “London, Moscow, Tokyo, Kenya, NYC, Antarctica, LA and the International Space Station” (yes, somebody is going to comment with a link to Wikipedia proving there are only seven continents)

7) Get all cute with your location by saying, “in limbo” or “everywhere but nowhere” or “right behind you”

8) Turn it into a resume with where you went to college, a summary of skills and your career goals–please save all that for LinkedIn and such

9) Make it completely obscure by writing it in French when you are NOT FRENCH AT ALL, using a Gertrude Stein poem instead of a bio, wussing out by using a quote from a famous person — or Capitalizing Every Word Of The Entire Bio While Not Understanding That People Actually Want To Be Able To Read The Stupid Thing Without Getting A Migraine

10) Trying to be shocking by saying insanely offensive things while packing all seven of the FCC’s seven dirty works in there and working very hard to make your profile form an obscene gesture using ASCII art nonsense

In the future

Will I  do the same sort of post for the Book of Face? Nope. Sorry. I do this for fun, and for free, and the Book of Face keeps getting breached by hackers and such, so I’m kinda mad at Zuckerberg and all that.

Also in the future: There will be robots that mow your lawn and space-age looking trikes that turn into flying cars. Just wait. Are you done waiting? Here you go. If Daniel Craig doesn’t already have one of these, he’ll steal one this weekend.

News junky, heal thyself

Listen: I get how watching the news right now is like a train wreck, except each new day brings a bigger, more fiery train wreck than the day before. And you just want it to stop, and go back to normal, but can’t turn away.

As a reformed journalist, I’m a complete and utter news addict. Went to rehab–didn’t help one bit.

So I feel you.

Here’s what is really going on.

Chaos and confusion

In normal times, a scandal is big news for weeks or months. One large scandal can easily end a political career, or bring a CEO down.

What’s happening now is a flood of scandals and outrages, and yes, part of that is because the world’s most powerful man is a moody, incompetent toddler. But it’s also by design.

Vladimir Putin has a large country with a tiny economy. He can’t beat the West in economics, or even in a straight military conflict. What he’s doing is sowing discord, distrust and chaos through lies, misinformation and propaganda.

Brexit and Donald Trump are only two examples. Look hard enough–or listen to the intelligence community pros and reporters who cover national security–and you’ll see evidence of this information war being waged all over the free world.

Putin + Trump = a perfect marriage

Putin’s strategy is perfectly aligned with what Donald Trump has done his entire life: use conflict and chaos to build his name ID and get press coverage. The twist is, Trump didn’t care whether the coverage was good or bad, as long as they spelled his name right. Affairs, divorces, scandals–didn’t matter. Just get him on the front page or the Howard Stern show.

Working in reality TV only cemented this strategy. If everything goes right on a reality show, the ratings stink. What sells? Conflict and chaos, betrayals and big fights. 

And when there’s a new political scandal or outrage every day, it’s hard to remember the seven train wrecks from last week, or last month. 

Attacking the media

The other half of this is attacking the foundations of truth–the free press–while trafficking in lies, misinformation and propaganda.

They want average people to be numb and apathetic, and to mistrust what’s coming from real journalists.

To create doubt and fear.

What you can do

It’s easy to get hooked on the news in times like this. It feels like the middle of a presidential primary, the days before a Super Bowl, the first moments of a war. 

When you care about something, getting glued to the screen is easy. 

I’m not saying you ignore the news, quitting it cold turkey.

The trick is balancing out gathering information, and being informed, with taking action.

Because gathering info in a time like this can never end. There’s always a new scandal, another angle you hadn’t considered, a rabbit hole to go down.

The more you care, the more you tend to read and watch, and it certainly feels like you’re doing something.

Except it’s not actually taking action, and it’ll take average people refusing to be apathetic to bring things back to normal.

Elections alone won’t win this kind of fight, especially if you live in a country where elections are partially or fully rigged. 

Check out this chapter for more on Winning the War on Truth.

The sleeper cells have awoken

Who wrote the anonymous oped in the Times?

Donald Trump and every other carbon-based lifeform who cares about politics is frantically trying to figure out which senior White House official wrote this oped in The New York Times.

So yes, staffers in the White House are actually texting each other “the sleeper cells have awoken” as they huddle behind closed doors and speculate on who it might be.

Now, I write serious things all day and do this silly blog for fun, and for free. So in normal times I’d post something about weird news, why the third act of the latest DC movie doesn’t work or dissect the first page of novel.

But times are not normal. This is an important moment in history, not just for American democracy and the rule of law, but around the world, as Putin and Russia wage a secret and sustained war against the foundations of democratic countries in Europe and elsewhere.

Let’s talk about how conventional wisdom on the oped is wrong.

1) Unmasking the author doesn’t help Trump one bit

Here’s the thing: solving that mystery won’t help Trump.

The author of this oped is taking a big risk to their job, and career, to warn America.

That warning went out. Unmasking the author doesn’t reverse time and unpublish the oped. We’ve all read it.

The dam broke and the damage is done.

2) Punishing the oped author won’t fix a thing, either

If the author gets revealed, sure, they’ll get fired–if they haven’t resigned already and revealed themselves.

Won’t matter.

The author may not have a future in Republican politics, at least for a few years.

If the author is a staffer and not a cabinet official or former elected official, their name recognition and status will increase exponentially.

No matter who they are, they won’t starve on the unemployment line.

Whoever wrote that oped can write their own ticket with publishers. They’ll be booked solid on every political show when they’re not getting magazine profiles and interviews with newspapers.

3) The incentives are now reversed

Sure, everybody in D.C. leaks to reporters. The normal incentive, though, is for seniors staffers at the White House and cabinet officials to be loyal to the president, or the presidency, until they leave office for a job with a lower profile and higher salary. To keep their nose clean.

That’s why most standard leaks are self-serving and minor.

This oped isn’t self-serving or minor. It’s the nuclear bomb of leaks.

The Trump White House already had reversed incentives in many ways. President Barack Obama cultivated a culture of no drama, as it’s toxic and unproductive if you can’t trust your colleagues and boss.

Trump treats the White House like his old reality show. He likes teasing that a staffer or cabinet official might get fired, and they know from history it may well happen by a random tweet. Just like in reality shows, contestants have to deceive and betray just to survive in this White House.

Now, the incentives are fully reversed from normal. Loyalty isn’t helpful anymore in any respect.

This oped, and the new book by the legendary Bob Woodward, create a new incentive to leak more about Trump and get on the right side of history.

Because they know it’s a train wreck. They see it every day and there’s a distinct feeling that we’ve turned a corner, and the end is near.

If they can’t be quiet and loyal to wait for one of those cushy jobs, the other option—the new incentive—is to beat other leakers at the game and hope the history books make you look like a hero instead of a complicit villain.

4) This will paralyze an already paranoid Trump

Running the most powerful country on the planet is the toughest job on the planet. It takes a team that trusts each other and believes in the boss.

After this oped and the Woodward book, it’s clear they don’t believe in the boss and can’t trust each other.

Anyone could be the mole. Half the staff apparently talked to Woodward.

If you think the White House was dysfunctional before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

5) It’s a race now

The hunt for the identity of the author won’t scare other staffers into not leaking.

It will embolden them.

They know they’re not alone. Woodward’s new book shows how many senior staffers agreed to sit down, with the tape running, to tell the truth.

They know the incentives have flipped, and that subverting a dangerous and dysfunctional White House from within makes them look patriotic instead of disloyal.

And they know the first person to go public—like the oped author—will get far more press and attention than the seventh or tenth.

Leaks to the press will accelerate and escalate.

Expect more anonymous opeds, document dumps and secret tapes.

This week was incredibly awful for Trump, with the Woodward book and NYT oped two mortal blows that will continue to bleed and bleed.

And things will only get worse from here, since no staffer fears getting fired from a sinking ship.

Trump’s trouble with Twitter

You’d think that being president of the United States is enough of a bully pulpit, seeing how whatever you say or do gets reported and analyzed around the world.

It’s not enough for Donald Trump, who’s clearly addicted to Twitter, despite the fact that his tweets keep getting him into political and legal trouble.

Just think of Trump as Kirk, and each adorable tribble is a cancerous tweet, eating away at truth and democracy. Image via Giphy.

If you remove politics—I know, this is hard—Donald Trump presents a unique case in messaging and media strategy, especially when it comes to how he uses social media.

Somehow, he steamrolled a field of Republican candidates so big they all couldn’t fit on one stage. Yet using the same media tactics keep backfiring as president.

Let’s drill down on why.

1) Trump truly believes the myth of Any Press is Good Press

When you’re trying to do anything on a big stage—become a famous rock star, actor, artist, writer or politician—most of the battle is simply becoming known. Because if nobody knows you exist, they can’t see your movies, buy your singles on iTunes or vote for you in a primary.

So at first, it’s all about name ID.

Trump clearly buys into this. His name is his brand, and he’ll do anything to boost that brand.

There are two main schools of thought to generating free press and dominating the news cycle. The first school says dominate the news cycle by, I don’t know, making actual news. Saying something bold and fresh. Announcing a new policy (“We will put a man on the moon!), revealing a secret, saying who your veep will be. That sort of thing.

The other school of thought in PR—an evil school I don’t subscribe to—says, “I don’t care if the story is good or bad, as long as they spell my name right.”

Trump doesn’t just buy into the theory that all press is good press. He *needs* press as a form of attention and validation.

That didn’t hurt him as a businessman, or even as one of 17-bazillion candidates for the Republican nomination. Because it’s true that you can boost your name ID and make money by doing outrageous things. His business goals and personal needs were in alignment.

So the first thing you have to think about is why Trump uses Twitter, and it’s not four-dimensional chess. It’s to gin up press and attention, like he’s always done.

2) The pro’s and cons of constant controversy

Gaffes that would slay ordinary politicians failed to kill Trump’s candidacy.

People expect craziness from him. It’s not a shock. He’s vaccinated himself by doing it so often for so long.

Trump’s go-to move is something that’s guaranteed to generate tons of free ink: insult other famous people. Give them frat-boy nicknames, make fun of their size, call women ugly, attack minorities—whatever it takes.

Yet the downside is huge. Even as an unknown, hustling to make it big, generating controversy boosts your name ID at the expense of your reputation.

Becoming president changed everything for Trump.

Every single spelling mistake, provable lie and temper tantrum he tweets gets dissected on the global stage.

Trump didn’t adjust. He still acts like he’s hustling to get known and make it big, posting risky tweets because that’s what worked to boost his name ID and get earned media.

Except you don’t need to boost your name ID when you’re the president of the United States of America.

And when you pick fights as president, you’re always punching down, attacking people with less power than you. There’s no way it’s seen as anything but bullying.

Trump doesn’t care because he’s still generating attention. Sure, the press will cover his tweets, and people will read those stories.

People will always be entertained by watching human train wrecks. It’s just lot less fun being a passenger on that train when Trump’s driving it off a cliff.

3) There is no plan, only emotion

Most public figures and leaders tweet with a purpose. They have a plan and check with others, including professionals who understand media and message, to make sure they avoid self-inflicted wounds while making progress toward tangible goals.

Political candidates and leaders usually try to gain support and build bridges. Because that’s how you get elected and get things done for the folks you represent.

Trump tweets for himself, based on his needs and emotions. The primary emotion is rage, but even his positive tweets are ones that focus on his favorite subject: Donald Trump.

Tweeting gives him instant gratification. He doesn’t have to wait until tomorrow’s newspaper or for what he said to hit CNN or FOX. The retweets, likes and comments show up in seconds.

So I don’t buy the theory that Trump is doing insanely complicated things on Twitter and somehow playing four-dimensional chess. When he gets mad, he tweets. And he continues to do so despite the obvious legal and political damage. He’s blown up deals with the Republican-controlled Congress with a single tweet, started trade wars and threatened nuclear war. I’m not sure how he could use Twitter to do more damage. He’s pretty much got it covered.

His political goals and personal needs are out of alignment.

Trump isn’t building bridges and making friends with controversial tweets, attacks on his enemies and provable lies. He’s motivating those that oppose him and giving Robert Mueller evidence of obstruction of justice.

This is a key point. Prosecutors need evidence of intent for a crime like obstruction of justice. This is ordinarily hard to get. Trump has turned his tweets into a permanent, written record of his intent, a stream-of-consciousness monologue for everyone to see. It’s a peek inside his brain, and that picture isn’t pretty.

The last argument you could make is Trump uses tweets as fan service, to feed his base. Except when pollsters and pundits talk to people who voted for him, one thing keeps coming up: they wish he’d stay off Twitter.

He won’t.

Not even if it costs him the White House.

HALLELUJAH by Kate McKinnon, who is just killing it

I’m not alone in adoring Kate McKinnon’s impression of Hillary Clinton during the campaign, though Alec Baldwin’s job as Trump got more attention.

This song, though, hit me hard. Who knew she could play piano and sing? (If you don’t know the song, it’s by Leonard Cohen, who just died.)

Capping it off? Her lines after the song is over, when you can she’s choked up. Appropriate for our times.

Though she does a great Clinton (below), she also does spot-on impressions of Justin Bieber, Ellen DeGeneres and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

So she can act and sing. If she could dance, McKinnon would be a triple threat.

Yeah, she can dance.

Kate the McKinnon, please keep on doing what you do and we won’t give up.

2016 craziness leads to brilliant and funny music videos

Now, this fake Japanese commercial for Trump is spot-on and hilarious. But the seriousness and inevitably silliness of a campaign that started out with 20+ candidates and now has our first reality TV star as a nominee, well, you’re going to get more than one video from that.

Here’s Obama singing Rihanna’s WORK.

And here’s brother Bernie belting out POWER by Kanye.

Hillary and Barack team up for TIMBER by Pitbull.

It takes skill to create these videos. I think they work because of the high contrast between the highest politicians in the land and low-brow pop songs. The more banal the pop song, and the harder it is to figure out the lyrics (love Rihanna, but nobody understands what she’s singing in WORK), the more funny the video is.

The original Serious Footage Turned Into Song, though, is still the best: Brian Williams absolutely nails RAPPER’S DELIGHT.

SUNRISE by the Olson Bros, Donald Trump and the power of authenticity

SUNRISE by Olson Bros

Good stuff, right? I’m not a country fan, and I’ve played this song a zillion times.

You probably haven’t heard of the Olson Bros, which is the point of the post: there’s all kinds of buried talent out there, even if they’ve won a national songwriting contest.

I saw the Olson brothers (and they are real-life brothers) at their first show at Savory Faire, and they’ve gotten better every year. Saw them again this weekend at Charlie’s, and they’re great live.

These are local college kids who’ve practiced hard. The giant bull they use as a stands on a field in Mud Bay on the way to Olympia.

Here’s the deal: The great thing about the Series of Tubes is there’s so much stuff out there, you can find whatever you like. The horrible thing about the Series of Tubes is there’s so much stuff out there, it’s crazy hard to separate the brilliant from the banal.

That’s why name ID and PR are so important. It’s why people with zero talent (Snooki, the Situation, the Kardashians) make millions while great musicians, artists and writers toil away, thinking talent is all that matters. If they’re good enough, people will notice.

Except the real formula is Artistic Talent x Publicity Skill Squared.

Donald Trump is proving the effectiveness of great publicity in the presidential race. He doesn’t know a thing about foreign policy or the Federal Reserve and it doesn’t matter right now, because he’s far better at PR than Jeb! and the others running, even after Jeb! wasted $24 million on ads in Iowa and New Hampshire.

This is why real press coverage (earned media) is still hugely important. Trump hasn’t had to respond to the Jeb! advertising assault. Why? Because every day, Trump is getting far more than $24 million in free media coverage by picking fights and saying outrageous things.

HOWEVER: Social media gives me hope.

There’s so much advertising today it’s becoming white noise to people. I thought there couldn’t be more ads on TV than during the 2008 presidential campaign, then 2012 proved me wrong. Billions of dollars will blanket the airwaves in 2016.

My prediction is they’ll run out of ad slots. Karl Rove will have to buy a struggling TV shopping network and split it into three just to find airtime.

Mainstream media and social media are a counterweight this advertising juggernaut. And I think social media’s power is growing. It’s more authentic and powerful to hear your friends and family say, “That band rocks, see them live” or “Buy IMAX tickets to that new movie, don’t wait for Netflix” instead of getting told that from paid announcer on a TV ad.

To get technical, the ethos of journalists and social media is strong, because these are people you know, trust and who don’t have a self-interest in the outcome. The reverse is true for random advertisements: you don’t know them, don’t trust them and they want your money.

So the Olson Bros did the right thing by making a good music video on a shoestring budget. I don’t need a slick music video that cost $850,000 and took a week to shoot on a Nashville set. The music is great and the visuals match. The energy and enthusiasm of the Olson brothers feels real.

There are some things you can’t buy.