On Twitter's fifth anniversary, Ted Leo gives the musician's perspective on how best to use it.
You don't need 1 million Twitter followers to use Twitter effectively. Punk veteran Ted Leo (@tedleo), of Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, has a Twitter following of nearly 20,000. Yet his daily posts have helped win him a Shorty Award, a prize issued by the Real Time Academy of Short Form Arts & Sciences to Twitter users demonstrating the best uses of the service. In 2010 Leo was named, along with such artists as Amanda Palmer, 50 Cent and M.I.A., one of the 40 "artists to follow" by Pitchfork.
"I wasn't initially convinced of its value or use," Leo says. "But I enjoy the constraints of the format. It's a great tool, it's really kind of fun, and-dare I say-enriching in my life. There are any number of ways you can approach it. One of the genius things of the platform is how flexible it is. What you bring to it is what it becomes. It's a useful way to have a one-on-one connection with fans and friends."
REGULARLY REPLY TO FANS. "I maintain my Twitter as a conversational thing. I don't respond to every @reply. If it's something that's challenging in a friendly way that makes me what to respond, I will. If it's something that's challenging in a way that makes me angry, I sometimes will-and sometimes go back and delete those responses. But there are a lot of voices that jump in when you put things out there in a conversational tone."
RETWEET TO BOOST IMPRESSIONS. "I retweet a lot, but only things I find interesting and want to pass on to my followers. The marketing, brand-building side is really an afterthought. In my world, all forms of promotion are an afterthought to the music you make and the people that appreciate it."
DON'T JUST TWEET ABOUT YOUR NEXT SHOW/ALBUM. "If I'm playing a show I want to let people know about, I'll put it on Twitter. It is valuable as a news-blasting service for your business. But it's just another facet of the whole relationship I have with the rest of the world."
HAVE A GOAL BUT STAY LOOSE. "I have no goals with Twitter. I don't solicit followers or purge them. It is what it is and I'm going to use it the way I'm going to use it. Being someone who comes from the basement punk underground of the '80s, I've tried to maintain something of that conversational tone that was the de facto mode of existence for me when I got into music. I try not to have that fourth wall, even onstage."
BE AUTHENTIC. "I'm not afraid to embarrass myself from time to time by opening that window a little wider into the daily idiocy of my life. I can understand why someone at a higher level of the fame game would not be as comfortable doing that."