1. IF BREAKFAST SUPPOSED BE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF DAY! HOW COME IT ALWAYS HAPPEN WHEN DRUNK HULK SLEEPING!?
Let me tell you about the average day for Drunk Hulk.
He doesn’t wake up until 15:00. You’d think that this has a lot to do with his perpetual inebriated state, but it’s not. He’s more calculated than you’d think.
I’m actually up a lot earlier than that. I’ve already visited and mined a variety of news sites for material, and by 15:00 I’m usually at work. This means I’m committed to a schedule where I teach three 90-minute blocks with 30-minute breaks. During my breaks, I’ll hit the news sites again just to see if anything new has happened and then I’ll either tweet a joke I wrote in the morning or a new joke based on what I’m seeing in real time (which is more preferable).
I’m usually home from work somewhere between 20:30 and 21:00, which means that I have about two hours left in my window to tweet. Once it’s 23:00, Drunk Hulk is either ready to pass out or get the night started.
Rinse and repeat.
This is not the life I imagined. Then again, Bruce Banner never planned on being next to a gamma bomb when it exploded. Luckily for me, I don’t need to get angry to be Drunk Hulk; I just hit the Caps Lock and off I go. I use Drunk Hulk to comment on what’s happening in the world and pop culture, but mostly I do this because I really like making people laugh.
If you had told me 12 years ago that I’d be known for writing in ALL CAPS in 140 characters or less, I probably would’ve been extremely confused.
Why would anyone limit themselves to 140 characters or less?
That sounds awful.
Now let me explain the method behind my madness.
2. REPORTER WANT BE OBJECTIVE! NEWSPAPER SAY HE KANT!
In 2012, the average Twitter user follows and is followed by 51 people, and only 50% of users used Twitter’s website. Furthermore most people are engaging on Twitter with their mobile devices, and those screens are small. People’s tolerance for scrolling down, especially on a phone, is fairly limited. This means that if people miss the tweet after 20 minutes after it’s been posted, there’s a very high chance that it’ll be missed all together.
That’s why I generally write tweets between 15:00–23:00 GMT+1 here in Poland, which makes it 9:00–17:00 EST in the States — this is where most of my audience is. This is when that 20 minute window allows the most sunshine in the room.
Remember, tweeting is one of the most ephemeral ways of communicating. It’s just a bunch of us screaming at the top of our lungs in the dark. So pay attention to who your audience is and when they’re usually online. Once you have that figured out, tweet during the hours that will allow the most people in that audience to hear what you have to say.
Timing is everything.
One of the things I’ve learned is that Drunk Hulk has certain disadvantages, such as 1) some people’s inability to deal with tweets written in ALL CAPS; 2) some people’s inability to deal with poor grammar; 3) an incorrect perception that a humor/parody feed has no value on Twitter; and 4) an apparent over-saturation of Hulk feeds on Twitter. Now I try to keep Drunk Hulk tweets down to a minimum. It’s rare when I’ll tweet more than three times in a given day.
3. SOMETIME DRUNK HULK WISH TWITTER 150 CHARACTER INSTEAD! THIS WAY DRUNK HULK CAN REALLY EXPRESS SELF!
Twitter is not popular in Poland. I think a lot of this has to do with the difficulty of communicating in a language as loquacious as Polish in 140 characters or less. English is more malleable and playful and can provide a tweet with a lot of density in the right hands. I don’t think it’s accidental that the most successful feeds in Poland either go back and forth between Polish and English or use the latter exclusively.
I’m also a big believer in Warren Ellis’ burst culture. I believe that narrative bursts (whether we’re talking fiction, music, YouTube clips, etc), rather than being limited or underdeveloped compared to longer works, create new avenues of communication and exploration that can’t be achieved any other way. A tweet can be just as explosive as a novel and can stay with a reader as successfully as any short story can.
A tweet is short, obviously, but if a blog post or a short story is a machine gun that’s shooting so many bullets that one is bound to hit the desired target, a tweet is a single shot. To hit, it has to be aimed perfectly, but when it hits, it’s just as successful.
A short tweet (especially using half the allotted characters) can be read faster and it usually helps establish momentum for someone to RT it. RTing is crucial for making a feed more popular. That said, I’ve learned that a lot of people don’t know how to RT. Some people like to cut-and-paste. Some people want to add a comment or emoticon.
The first rule I gave myself with Drunk Hulk was this: never tweet more than 126 characters. I did this for three reasons — 1) to make the writing more challenging; 2) to help keep the tweets short; and 3) to make it easier for those who RT.
Cut-and-pasters often take a 126 character tweet and add “RT @DRUNKHULK” which adds 14 characters, bringing it to the maximum allowed. If the tweet is longer than 126 characters and this happens, they might be inclined to abbreviate or edit the tweet (which happens), but more than likely — seeing that there’s work involved — they’ll simply not RT and move on to other things.
More importantly, people love to comment on the tweet. Whether it’s something simple like lol or ☺ or something more complicated like I hate Drunk Hulk with all my heart or I bet the guy who writes Drunk Hulk is sexy, if they can’t share what they want to communicate along with the RT, they might not RT at all.
4. GADDAFI DEAD! NO COOL! DRUNK HULK JUST FIGURE OUT HOW SPELL HIS NAME!
The most successful Drunk Hulk tweets tend to be the ones where he’s reacting to something happening in real time. One that comes up again and again is when Drunk Hulk announced that Gaddafi had been killed. Out of blind luck, Drunk Hulk happened to be one of the first people to announce the death on Twitter. Even Anthony Bourdain admitted that he “gets all of his breaking news via Twitter, and learned about Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi‘s death in 2011 via the oddball/awesome account @DRUNKHULK.”
More recently, Drunk Hulk was one of the first feeds to announce th Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare. I managed to tweet the correct decision before CNN and FOX News did, and I was just some guy sitting in front of a computer in Poland with two jokes ready depending on which decision was made. The same was true when Drunk Hulk announced Tom Cruise’s divorce.
If you react to something that’s happening in real time, especially with a dose of humor, your followers will do the rest of the work for you. No one’s really interested in your thoughts on something that happened yesterday, especially on Twitter. People love to be the first in their social circle to announce news, especially when it’s bad news. RTing breaking news from Drunk Hulk helps them to accomplish that.
5. FOLLOW OR NO FOLLOW! THERE NO FRIDAY!
This is something that took me a lot longer to figure out than it should have. People love it when you respond to them on Twitter. It’s so gloriously simple that I think most of us don’t realize it. I don’t respond to everyone, but when there’s an opportunity to reach out, I try and take it. People are adding and dropping feeds all the time, and if they’ve had a connection with you — no matter how brief — they’re more than likely willing to keep following you.
6. DRUNK HULK HATE TO ADVOCATE PURPLE PANTS TO ANYONE! BUT THEY ALWAYS WORK FOR DRUNK HULK!
Twitter isn’t a place where you can expound on your mind-blowing ideas. That’s what therapy is for. While Twitter has a lot of useful advantages, it’s most successful trait is its ability to communicate humor. Comedians like Steve Martin are huge on Twitter and I think a lot of it has to do with the simple fact that their humor was basically tweeting long before there was such as thing as Twitter (I mean, why isn’t Steven Wright a Twitter superstar? His jokes have been waiting decades to be tweeted).
Most people on Twitter are sitting at work, running errands they don’t want to do, or stuck in a day they wish was over already, and if you can make them laugh with one sentence, you’re providing them with a priceless gift.
This is why it amazes me that so many talented writers and artists use their feed as a platform to complain about everything. I get that people have a bad day now and then, but if your default setting is miserable, you might find Twitter to be a lonely place. Why would I want to read your book or listen to your music if your Twitter feed can’t provide me with anything remotely positive?
Make people laugh and they will follow. And on top of that, they’ll consider what you want to sell because they already feel like you’ve given them something. They’re not just buying something from you, they’re paying you back for what you gave them.
7. DRUNK HULK THOUGHT ABOUT RUNNING FOR OFFICE! BUT THEN REMEMBER THAT DRUNK HULK WANT BE HAPPY!
Despite what I said above, please remember that humor is a point of view. This means that if you’re cracking a joke about politics or religion, half the room is laughing and half the room isn’t. There is no universal laugh. During the last presidential election, when I made an Obama joke, people complained that they didn’t realize Drunk Hulk was Republican. When I made a Romney joke, people were turned off that Drunk Hulk was a crummy liberal. Many of the jokes I’ve made as Drunk Hulk have attacked people, ideas, institutions that I fully support or believe in. The biggest difference between me and the audience I offend is that I’m not afraid to laugh at myself.
A celebrity or politician is a shortcut to make a point. I tend to take a shot at whoever is in the spotlight that will best serve the joke. If I did the joke last week, it probably would’ve been someone else. Yesterday’s Hilton is tomorrow’s Kardashian. It’s never personal.
So if you’re on Twitter to sell something, remember that humor is one of the best ways to connect with people, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to lose them. I’m not asking you to neuter your material or become Twitter’s answer to Jay Leno, I’m telling you this because when the complaints start coming in (and it’s inevitable), you have to step back from it and not take it personally.
When you get tweets from people attacking you — because you will — your pride will convince you that the best course of action is to respond. Ignore your pride. This might be the hardest thing in the world to do, but if you engage in an argument with someone on Twitter you. will. never. win. You will never create the perfect insult that will make that person cry and stop. You will never tweet a statistic that will change that person’s political/religious belief. You will never have a fight on Twitter and come out looking good. If you really want to upset or annoy someone who attacks you on Twitter, simply ignore that person. I promise you that will do far more than anything you can write in 140 characters or less.
8. BARTENDER SAY DRINK ON HOUSE! IF THAT TRUE! DRUNK HULK NO BE HERE! AND BE HOME ON ROOF INSTEAD!
This might be the most important part. You’re probably on Twitter to sell something. It could be something you made or you could be selling yourself (we all want to be liked, after all). I think everyone implicitly understands this.
I’ve spent a long time online trying to get people to read and/or buy my stories and books in ways that basically amounted to “Look at me! Please! By all that’s holy! Look at me!” I tried a lot of different approaches, but most people could see right through what I was trying to do. Basically, I started blogs and Twitter feeds for all the wrong reasons.
With Drunk Hulk, I never expected it to be anything but a quick distraction. I didn’t plan to be working on it for a week, let alone four years. I know it’s probably a coincidence, but I like to think that one of the reasons why it blew up was because I was sincerely having fun. And it still is fun. I don’t think I’ve had such a good time with any of my writing until Drunk Hulk came along.
Drunk Hulk changed my life. All because I was trying to have some fun instead of frantically worrying about how I could get readers to check out my work. And the reality is, people are now reading my stories, more than ever before. Not because I begged them to, but because they enjoyed my having fun.
This is an excerpt from Smashed: The Life and Tweets of Drunk Hulk. Want to know more?