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Gary Link-eker?

October 15, 2013

I’ve been analysing the behaviour of a few ‘celebrity’ tweeters whose clear aim is to gain notoriety via provocative tweets. Sometimes this is combined with offline behaviour which adds up to a kind of ‘shock jock’ business model.

Their strategy includes directing some of these tweets in a matey way to other celebrities with large twitter followings. No doubt they hope to gain some extra reach when those celebrities feel obliged to reply. More generally they want to be seen to be part of a twitter ‘in crowd’ by getting those responses.

In this respect they are functioning with some of the parasitic qualities of a troll.

That’s when I noticed the response of Gary Lineker – or at least of his account. I don’t think I would ever have noticed it just by scrolling through his timeline for a while. It’s only when I see someone post at him and then I look for a reply, that the pattern emerges.

He doesn’t ‘Reply’. He posts an ab initio tweet which, because of the timing and wording, is clearly a response. But he doesn’t, therefore, include the twitter name of the person he’s responding to. Thus, he’s made his opinion known, without feeding the troll.

Why bother? Why not just ignore? Because he has a big following, within which it will be his keenest followers who look for a response. Similarly they will be the ones who make the connection, through timing and context, which would otherwise only be supplied by an explicit @troll reply. Everyone else passes by and fails to notice… which is fine.

Subtle. Elegant.

There’s a price to pay. This strategy only works if you are right on top of your twitter account and ready to respond quickly where necessary – so that the timeline tells the story for you. This might only run to certain peak times of day of course – my analysis hasn’t gone that far. I assume that someone with Lineker’s resources, and for whom social media is so important, can pay for an assistant or agency, with the relevant tools, to spot @GaryLineker mentions that need a response. But if he’s wise, this won’t run to letting them anticipate his thoughts and make reactive posts of this kind for him. Judging from what appears to be a coherent and consistent voice (‘authenticity’ again) he doesn’t do that. Which means that there’s an ever-present demand on his time and attention. Having created an expectation amongst his most attentive followers, a failure to respond to a controversial message [directed specifically at him] will be taken as an active acceptance, not a passive oversight.

Of course – I may be reading all this into his posting pattern myself. Such is the subtlety.

So, have you spotted anyone else appearing to use this technique?

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