SOCIAL MEDIA

From Twitter to Bestseller – and TV, Too

Wondering if Twitter is worth your time? Consider the case of 29-year-old Justin Halpern.

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Actress Kristen Bell, an advocate of Justin's twitter page

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Think the 140 characters Twitter allows you don't add up to much value?

Consider next season's CBS show "Bleep My Dad Says." The show was inspired by 29-year-old Justin Halpern's Twitter feed about, um, expletive-deleted stuff his dad says. His Twitter feed (it's not family friendly – consider yourself warned) has 1.3 million followers and was the basis of a book, which debuted at No. 8 on the New York Times bestseller list last weekend.

Halpern was inspired to start tweeting thanks to a friend who runs the fake Michael Bay Twitter page. (Hollywood director Bay's credits include "Armageddon" and "Transformers.") His first sub-140 character missive, posted on August 3, 2009: "I didn't live to be 73-years-old so I could eat kale. Don't fix me your breakfast and pretend you're fixing mine."

We don't know what Halpern's being paid, but let's just call this the $1 million question: How did he get 1.3 million followers?

"The first week I had zero followers, just a couple of friends who I would send it to and they looked at it because they know my dad [a 74-year-old retired doctor]," Halpern, who works at Maxim magazine, told Time magazine. "Then my friend with the Michael Bay page asked if he could post a link to my site on his page. I said sure, but I really didn't think anyone was going to think it was funny. By the next day I had about 500 followers. Then Rob Corddry [comedian, formerly of "The Daily Show"] saw it and tweeted it. That really made it viral. He jumpstarted it." He also got a shout out from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" star Kristen Bell, who recommended that her followers read it, "unless you're allergic to laughing hysterically."

In less than a month – and just 28 profanity-laced Tweets – Halpern had nearly a quarter of a million Twitter followers.

"You need to flush the toilet more than once ... No, YOU, YOU specifically need to," reads one of the only printable posts on Halpern's Twitter page."You know what, use a different toilet. This is my toilet."

Reads another early missive: "Don't touch the bacon, it's not done yet. You let me handle the bacon, and i'll let you handle ... what ever it is you do. I guess nothing."

Early followers, according to ABC News, also included actress Alyssa Milano, comedian George Lopez and singer/songwriter John Mayer, the last of whom has more than 2 million followers.

How can you get a celebrity to follow your Tweets? Humor – and yes, a bit of luck. Shannon Albert – who's exchanged Tweets with Justin Timberlake, among others – suggests a couple of strategies on TwiTip.com. Her ultimate advice, though, is anything but starry-eyed: "Spend most of your time providing value to your followers."

Last updated: May 26, 2010

COURTNEY RUBIN

Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.




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