A New York-based comedian has turned his affection for HBO's "Eastbound & Down" into a Twitter audience that dwarfs those of major brands. In a ClickZ exclusive, he talks about staying in character - in 140 characters or less.
While researching a co-branding effort by K-Swiss and HBO's "Eastbound & Down," ClickZ learned that an anonymous Twitter user had hijacked the identity of the TV show's lead character, Kenny Powers. The tweeter, using the hashtag #KFUCKINGP, has built an audience of 132,000-plus followers since launching the fake account 17 months ago.
Given that the debaucherous situational comedy has so far been a limited ratings success after one season, that number is, without question, impressive. To put it into further context, K-Swiss's official account has less than 5,000 followers, HBO has 41,000, and 46-year-old soda brand Mountain Dew has 29,000 followers.
Through a New York Magazine article where the Twitter impostor mentioned his e-mail address, ClickZ reached out to the individual and invited him to take part in a Q&A. While not disclosing his name, the self-described struggling New York City comedian accepted the offer and ended up revealing some intriguing takes on Twitter marketing.
ClickZ: First and foremost, why exactly did you start the #KFUCKINGP account?
Kenny Powers Imposter: I've been a huge fan of ["Kenny Powers" actor] Danny McBride, [comedic writer] Ben Best and ["Eastbound & Down" creator] Jody Hill since their 2006 release of "The Fist Foot Way." I followed the news of "Eastbound & Down" for some time and highly anticipated it due to the trio's newfound mentorship from [producers] Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. In my eyes, it was just one of those projects that was dipped in gold from the beginning, something I felt when the pilot leaked in 2008. When it finally premiered in February of '09, I was definitely at a low point in my life, personally, creatively, and professionally and, although it may sound strange, I found solace in the show's dark plot points and amazingly well-crafted characters.
The push for the show online was heavy, but I saw that it lacked a Twitter account. I actually was surprised because it seemed like the perfect short form medium for "Kenny" to push out his gospel. Although it seemed unlikely that "Kenny Powers" would ever use Twitter - see episode "Chapter 3" for his well documented computer skills - it seemed more likely than the Facebook page that HBO & Focus Media was pushing as his own. "Kenny Powers" sending out 140 characters or less messages from a cell phone is much more easily pictured than "Kenny Powers" sitting down at a computer, updating his Facebook status and uploading pictures, right? So, I took it upon myself to fill what I saw as a void and the first tweet was sent out shortly before "Chapter 4" aired.
CZ: Have you received push-back from HBO, K-Swiss, or Twitter?
KPI: I've heard from, and am working with, K-SWISS and HBO, though I can't say as to exactly what our collaboration entails. I haven't heard from anyone at Twitter HQ, no.
CZ: Had you done other fictional characters on Twitter before starting this account?
KPI: I have not done any other fictional characters, but I have done some ghost-tweeting for official people, in which I cannot say who.
CZ: What has been the key to accruing such a huge following?
KPI: The key has undoubtedly [been] keeping the whole thing in the voice of Kenny Powers. Not straying from it by pushing your own opinion on things. Keep your personal agenda on things aside and embody who you are portraying and what you are trying to get across.
CZ: Did your "Kenny Powers voice" hit the right comedic notes at the beginning? Or was it a work in progress?
KPI: I think I hit the voice out of the gate, but there have probably been times where it fades, then returns. Every tweet that's written, I'll stare at it and listen to "Kenny" saying it in my head. If I can't envision it coming out organically, and [it] being funny when said out loud, it's rejected. It's definitely been a work in progress to maintain this level of dedication and gather a lot of info along the way as to what people expect and want.
CZ: Has the Twitter audience growth been purely organic? Or have you done some marketing for the account?
KPI: No marketing has been done whatsoever. Twitter growth can be purely equated to quality tweets - whether funny in this case or informative in others - that lead to re-tweets. Re-tweets are so crucial for growth, as it turns out. People love to tell other people every day "OMG, follow XXXX" and they'll look at who it is, what they are tweeting, and make the decision.
CZ: Marketers aspire to the kind of engagement you have created. What can they learn from what you've accomplished?
KPI: Twitter marketers can learn that if they try to force something that someone doesn't care about to begin with down someone's throat, [it] will fail. People already have to have a connection with you, first and foremost. After you build a successful following, the word-of-mouth will start to work and new, fresh followers will wonder "what [is this] all about?" and take a look into what you're offering.
CZ: Do you try to tweet a certain number of times a day or week?
KPI: I do not try to maintain a quota - probably because I don't do this particular one to get paid and it's more of a fun thing. Also, it would really harm your message to dilute everyone's stream with subpar content more often than not.
CZ: Are there other tricks of your trade that you can share about using Twitter for promotional purposes?
KPI: Make every tweet easily re-tweetable by watching your character count.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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