When I tell people I tweet for a living, most of them look at me blankly.
It’s like saying I eat chocolate for a living or I’m a professional Angry Birds player. But I promise you it’s a real job. We’re a bit of a rare breed at the moment but it won’t be that way for long.
For the last few years I’ve been working as a writer, writing for websites, webshows, working on TV shows and coming up with puns about pop stars.
I was never really into tweeting, I thought it was just full of people yawning on about their lunch or pretending to be celebrities. But that all changed on the night of the London riots.
I moved to Hackney a few days before the riots (timing never was my thing). As all hell broke loose I was using Twitter to find out what was happening. In amongst all the worry and angst I noticed a few comedy tweets about a pub called The Dolphin (there was a rumour it was on fire, it wasn’t). And as the pub didn’t have its own Twitter account I decided to set one up: @the_dolphin_pub.
The following day it had 2000 followers, including a few famous eastenders. I hadn’t planned my fictional dolphin would live for more than a few days but people seemed to be enjoying talking to it. And I was enjoying writing it, so I told the pub about it, they loved it, poured me a pint and I carried on.
Fast-forward a year and @the_dolphin_pub’s nonsense was popping up among the top tweets for big TV shows and events such as The BRITs and #london2012. It had trended on a Friday lunchtime with a #dolphinquiz (one place higher than the Nobel Peace Prize). And, most importantly, the pub was filling up with customers who had been reading the tweets.
The account grew further following a string of bizarre Twitter conversations with Douwe Egberts coffee, Mangal 2 kebab shop and Innocent smoothies, which were then covered on various blogs and in The Metro. So why has @the_dolphin_pub been so successful? It’s all down to tone of voice.
Tweeters want personality. I created a character that speaks like a slightly exaggerated version of the people that follow it. And when you get that right, the result is big followers and engagement.
It’s also about using Twitter in creative ways, such as, in The Dolphin’s case, Twitter bingo, Twitter star signs and Twitter quizzes (‘Twitter formats’ if you like).
All this foul-mouthed fun in 140 characters has changed my career. On the back of The Dolphin’s successes, I started getting asked to run other twitter accounts. So now, as well as tweeting as a fictional dolphin, I tweet for BBC One’s The Voice (@BBCTheVoiceUK), Beats headphones (@BeatsByDreUK), IKEA (@IKEAMandy), @PGTips, @adidas, The Apprentice (@bbcapprentice) and others.
Meanwhile, brands such as Betfair Poker (@Betfairpoker), O2 (@O2), Skittles (@Skittles) and Waterstones (@WstonesOxfordSt) are all enjoying Twitter success, having hired professional Twitterers.
Twitter is much more of an editorial platform than other social networks, so while hiring a writer is no guarantee of success, it certainly makes it more likely. Which is lucky, cos dolphin food doesn’t pay for itself.You can find David on Twitter (obviously) @davidlevin123 or @the_dolphin_pub. He has also formed a Twitter writers agency, That Lot, with David Schneider. See here [http://thatlot.co.uk/] for more info.