I went, belatedly, on Twitter last year. Mostly because of nagging from my publishers, but also because I felt that without a Twitter presence, as the media were concerned, I was effectively ceasing to exist. Which is not good news as a self-employed writer.
The story of me on Twitter can pretty much be summed up thus:
Me chuntering thoughts, observations and none-more-bon mots off into the ether, and no one taking a blind bit of notice. For the uninitiated, that’s no responses, no re-tweets, no likes and no… I don’t know, looks like some sort of bar-chart. Or a badly-built fence.
Then, on election night, everything went mental.
Ok, I had come up with what, as the scale of Theresa May’s misjudgement became apparent, what I thought was quite a good joke.
But mangling Oscar Wilde will only get you so far; the real – and sole – reason for several thousand people to be clicking their approval and virtually jumping up and down saying “What he said! What he said!” was that my earnest political commentary had been picked up and re-tweeted by a woman who is, in every media, much more read than me: JK Rowling. Caitlin Moran pitched in with a re-tweet too. As, about a week later, did Hollywood’s “my god I’d completely forgotten about her” Minnie Driver, which had Michael and I doing our best Stouffer The Cat impressions and rolling round the house saying “she got a WIDE face” for the rest of the day. Before long the internet inevitable happened, and pro- and anti-Trump people were violently arguing in my mentions, with no input from me whatsoever. As soon as I’d worked out how to switch the notifications on my phone off I ignored them completely and let them get on with it. But it hasn’t stopped. Two months later, and with Theresa May still very visibly still in Number 10, the now-redundant gag is still being regularly re-tweeted. Albeit mostly by busty pornbots who want me to come and watch them strip on webcam.
Meanwhile, everything else on my Twitter feed got back to normal.
Although I did, several weeks later, meet someone who said “Ah yes, I know you from Twitter”, which felt a bit weird.
Then, one morning in the office at Private Eye, I got an email.
“The Twitter influencers.”
Obviously this meant that I spent most of the day going round the office saying to my colleagues, “Get me, I’m the new Zoella”, but after a bit I wrote back to Olivia, whose surname and place of work I’m not going to reveal here (I’m only not changing her first name on the grounds that it can hardly identify her, because in my experience almost every single person who has ever worked in PR is called Olivia).
Eventually, I wrote back to ask for more details and find out what “the summer holiday moments” might be when they were at home.
Yep, I’m none the wiser either. The pictures didn’t help either: they seemed to be mostly of people from Game of Thrones, which I don’t watch and am not going to however enthusiastically you tell me I ought to. But there was one bit that I fully understood: £70 per tweet. At 140 characters maximum, as my desk-buddy Francis Wheen quickly calculated, that’s 50p per letter. Not per word. That’s the sort of rate Littlejohn’s on at the Mail. And they’ll be paying you for the spaces, too. Only Harold Pinter has ever been that well-rewarded for the bits in between.
Have you spotted the problem yet? Yep, this sort of shameless gubbins is the sort of thing we’d haul any other writer over the coals for in Private Eye. It would be right up there with writing your own Amazon reviews, or Wikipedia entry. I’d have to sign myself off as Adam “half-price broadband” Macqueen for ever after.
Bloody, shitting, twatting ethics. (Did I ever tell you about the time I turned down a regular gig on the Mail on Sunday which would have paid my mortgage every month because I objected to the way they treated Brian Paddick? He sold them his campaign diary a few years later, which meant he got paid twice.)
I wrote back:
Olivia, however, knows exactly how journalism works.
I didn’t reply. I felt Humbert Wolfe had already done so on my behalf.
You cannot hope to bribe or twist
(thank God!) the British journalist.
But, seeing what the man will do
unbribed, there’s no occasion to.
PS. It’s now “the mid of August”. Let’s do a quick Twitter search to see how my fellow influencers are getting on with boosting Plusnet, shall we?