The tweet elite

Writers, artists, musicians, actors and celebrities have embraced Twitter as a way of connecting with their fanbase.

Earlier this week it emerged that US rapper Kanye West has made a Coventry man an online star by following him on Twitter.

But how effective is it, and what are the pitfalls?

We asked two early adopters from the arts and entertainment industry - one famous, one not-so-famous - to explain what, when, why and who they tweet.

Neil Gaiman/Laura Kidd
Neil Gaiman Laura Kidd

Twitter name:@neilhimself

Twitter name:@warriorgrrl

Occupation: Author

Occupation: Musician (She Makes War)

Followers: Almost 1.5m

Followers: 2,000+

Twitter biog: will eventually grow up and get a real job. Until then, will keep making things up and writing them down.

Twitter biog: solo artist she makes war, sometime singer for the young punx, professional bassist, videographer, photographer, web writer and proud owner of @misterbenji

Why tweet?

I'd resisted for about a year. I thought I've got a blog, why should I want Twitter? It was friends, I think it was Jonathan Ross who talked me into it. He said this is fun, you should sign up.

For the first few weeks I just used it to talk to friends. Then I slowly got outed a a few people figured who I was. I loved it when I had 8-900 followers because the signal to noise level was actually a lot better.

Why tweet?

I got into Twitter through a real-life friend Sizemore - who's very big on Twitter.

I started Twitter twice. I joined up end of 2007, early 2008 because Sizemore said I should. And then I sort of ran out of steam and thought it was a bit pointless, so I deleted my account.

I was prompted to join again by Sizemore - he was running some screenings in London and you had to be on Twitter to get a ticket, so I joined up again and got really into it.

Margaret Atwood said Twitter is like having fairies at the bottom of your garden. What do you say?

It really is like having fairies at the bottom of the garden. They are magic and they do things for you.

On the other hand it's so easy and so seductive to think of Twitter as being somehow private. You can say something stupid and 10 million people notice.

I do try and remember that behind the fairies are hordes of everything else - and they're all watching.

Margaret Atwood said Twitter is like having fairies at the bottom of your garden. What do you say?

It's a bit a like Facebook - but with people who actually care about you.

When was Twitter most useful to you?

I had to persuade a dog to swallow a pill.

I twittered for advice and I got suggestion after suggestion. Most of them didn't work. 'Put the pill in the sausage.' No - that doesn't work. 'Cheese.' No.

Then someone said: 'You wrap it in butter and it will slide down.' I tried it and it worked!

And I'd learnt how to give a pill to a dog through the magic of Twitter.

When was Twitter most useful to you?

I got burgled a few months ago.

The police went through my house to make sure there was no-one still there. I was standing outside with my dog who was shaking with fear. I had to make a lead out of my Doc Marten lace so he wouldn't run off.

I needed to tell someone - it was late at night - so I tweeted about it. I must have got 30 or 40 messages - like a big hug. Practical help too - I was loaned a laptop and got lots of advice on how to deal with an insurance company.

What's been the downside of being on Twitter?

The problem with Twitter - which is the power of Twitter - is that you are publishing into the world. It's out there with the same power whether you have one follower or whether you have three million followers.

I had it when somebody said something that I thought was foolish and offensive. I twittered about that, and watched as I was about to bring the might of Twitter down on them. Somebody pointed that it was bullying. And there was a horrible moment of realisation...

I simply apologised, closed it off, deleted a few posts - and then people said 'Aha! You're burying the evidence!'

What's been the downside of being on Twitter?

It can take over your life a bit. You are also opening yourself up to people's criticisms and comments.

I got a bit wound up a few weeks ago when someone started questioning some pricing for the single. I'm not doing it to make a load of money, but I paid for it all myself, so it's a good opportunity to get a token amount of money back so I can do more videos.

I got a bit bugged by this guy asking these questions and then I thought 'this is fine - this is Twitter, he's not attacking me, he's asking questions.' So I explained and and he accepted that.

Has technology changed the way you tweet?

Not really… because when I started we were already in the current world of technology where I can tweet anywhere. I think technology has made Twitter possible.

Has technology changed the way you tweet?

I remember first tweet on mobile phone: from Regent Street - there were 12 buses in row not able to move. It was deep stuff.

Do you have famous followers?

I had the weird experience of walking down Oxford Street a few weeks ago and somebody stared at me and said 'You're Neil Gaiman - I'm Peter Serafinowicz.' I said: 'I follow you on Twitter!'

We were having this bizarre conversation as old friends - it was like we knew each other. There was this presumed level of intimacy between two people who had never met before.

Do you have famous followers?

The coolest one is Joey Santiago from The Pixies - he actually has tweeted at me.

What's your follow back policy?

I tend to follow people I know, or people who interest me, but I'm very aware if I try and follow everybody then I end up following nobody - the signal to noise will get to the point where it is all noise.

The joy of Twitter is that it's a stream, you step into it, you step out of it.

What's your follow back policy?

If anyone ever writes to me I always write back to them. That's really important.

Keeping Twitter manageable is an important part of being properly engaged - I don't follow many celebrities on Twitter. I've never been that interested in them on television, so I don't know why I'd need to follow them because of who they are.

Is tweeting a creative process?

No. I will occasionally pride myself on having said something funny or smart in 140 characters.

I'm a writer. I love a well-crafted sentence.

One day you're coming down an airport escalator and you think 'yeah…', and you post it.

And then you get in the car and forget all about it.

Is tweeting a creative process?

I feel a deep sense of satisfaction when I write something and it happens to be exactly 140

characters.

I don't spend a lot of time trying to construct things that sound good. I'm not into the poetry of it necessarily.

I don't like doing text speak. I don't lol. I never lol.

Stories, a short story anthology co-edited by Nail Gaiman, is available now in hardback. I Am, the new single by She Makes War, is available to download now.

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