A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece on the adoption of comedy by brands in their social media marketing. I used the analogy of a new stand-up comic breaking their way onto the club circuit, honing their skills, building a following and learning how to work the room.
This time I thought I’d look at how comedians themselves use social media. Is it merely another medium for chucking jokes out at people, fluffing up the egos of TV stars or can it be used to further a career in comedy?
In part 1 of this series
I invited some of the country’s top comic talent to visit me on Red Rocket Media’s Social Island using their favourite mode of transport and to chat about their use of social media, what platforms they use, whether they feel it’s helped their career and who their favourite people to follow are.
Here come the first three arrivals…
First to arrive here on sunny Social Island is Matt Forde who flew in on a specially chartered helicopter designed to look and sound exactly like Airwolf. Matt is a Nottingham born comedian, comedy writer, TalkSport radio presenter and former political advisor for the Labour Party.
Closely following Matt is Australian comedian, Damian Clark, who before moving to the UK made a name for himself on Irish television as part of RTE’s “Republic of Telly” and co-starred in Ireland’s highest rating comedy debut “I Dare Ya”. Damian has turned up on a portable scooter.
Last to arrive is comedian, comedy writer and presenter, Steve N Allen who has flown in on a rather stylish Seaplane.
Surrounded by the tropical white sands, lapping waves and palm tree’s I ask:
Q1. What are your preferred social media platforms and what do you use them for?
“Twitter’s the best for me, it’s great for promoting things quickly, like my podcast (latest show available here). It’s also good for quick jokes, moaning and winding up football fans.
Twitter forces you to be brief so cuts out waffle and it also means that you can talk to people other than your friends. It’s like giving everyone your phone number but they can only text you.”
Steve N Allen:
“I mainly use Twitter for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a great place to collect all your other stuff. If you post to Tumblr, YouTube, Keek, even answer something on Ask.fm, you can post it to Twitter and get more responses. I use social media to get my content to an audience. I write topical comedy articles on my website, do a podcast and recently I’ve started making videos of a weekly topical comedy gig I do. Without social media it would be like shouting out of a window.”
“YouTube is my favourite because there’s so much on there! I’ve discovered so many comics, musicians and videos of cats sh*ting that I never would have known existed if it wasn’t for YouTube.
Q2. Do you consider social media a good way to source content for new material?
“Totally dude! Film something, whack it online and when you see all the comments of people saying that “you suck” then you know you’re doing something right.”
“It might work for some people but it’s not what I use it for.”
Steve N Allen:
“I don’t source a lot of material on social media at all. I’m more likely to find it from news sites, but if a big story breaks I probably find out about it first when it trends on Twitter, and then I head to the news sites.
There is one way that social media helps with writing. As a comedian your job is to make sure you come up with the jokes that no one else has thought of and social media shows you the jokes that people have. You can use it as a filter.”
Q3. Do you think that social media has helped your career?
“For sure. I think more people watched the clips of my humble TV appearances on YouTube than when they were actually on TV. When I’m in Ireland I get recognised more for the YouTube video of my news report in ‘CopperFace Jacks nightclub Dublin’ than anything else. Crimewatch didn’t boost my profile at all.”
“I don’t think there’s any piece of work I’ve received because of what I’ve said on Twitter. I think some comedians can mistake what social media is – it’s a means, not an end. It’s a glorified mailing list really, something you can use to promote the real things you’re doing, gigs, TV appearances, radio shows etc. No-one gets a prize for having the most followers.
Where it has helped, you could argue, has been in being able to promote things to a wider audience so, in that regard, yes it’s helped my career.”
Steve N Allen:
“It’s definitely helped me. I don’t have a big profile as a comedian, certainly not big enough to have people attend a show specifically to see me, but thanks to Twitter, that’s happened. It’s also been useful in making connections with people in the industry, getting booked for gigs, being asked to be a guest on some BBC shows and even getting my name in some magazines.”
Q4. What was your greatest success when it comes to your use of social media?
Steve N Allen:
“Selling out my show at the Leicester Comedy Festival was a high point. As a comedian no-one has really heard of me, but by using social media I was lucky enough to play to a full room of people who wanted to see my show (and weren’t just there for the meal and the nightclub after, which is often the way with normal weekend club gigs).”
“I got drunk at a Nottingham Forest game and was sat behind Paul Walsh on Soccer Saturday so pratted about. I got loads of tweets that afternoon but it wasn’t because of anything I’d tweeted. This was just one of the clips, of me pretending to eat a fly.”
“Probably when Andrew Stanley and myself uploaded our dare (we asked out girls who were next to their boyfriends) for Ireland’s RTE show “I Dare Ya”. It went up to a million hits in a few months and continues to get thousands of views a day. Good to know you can sleep in ‘til 3pm and people are still watching your stuff, or at least one crazy guy is – over and over again.
Q4. Who are your favourite Twitter accounts at the moment?
“Rory O’Hanlon. Very funny, very Irish and terrible grammar.”
Steve N Allen:
” I think Sarah Millican is the perfect example of how to tweet as a comedian; some jokes, some plugging of her shows and some tweets that are just from her as a person. A lot of comedians think that tweeting nothing but jokes is the way to do it. But imagine what that would be like in real life?! Someone who doesn’t interact with you as a person, they just try to be funny all the time. They’d just be that annoying person in the office.
Peter Serafinowicz is amazing on social media. He tweets material that is better than some people put on TV.”
With that, we put the beach fire out and say our goodbyes. As I watch today’s comedians depart on their vehicles of choice into the sunset, I think the main thing we’ve learned is that it’s not all about jokes. Providing your followers with relevant promotional content on a platform that works for you as well is the key to building that following and generating the trust of your fans. Thanks to Matt Forde, Damian Clarke and Steve N Allen for their contributions.
Part 2 coming soon…
Keep an eye out for part 2 in a few weeks when I’ll be talking to Tiernan Douieb, Zoe Lyons, Maff Brown and Stephen Grant
Social Island interviews: 3 top comedians talk Twitter originally appeared on Red Rocket Media on May 1, 2013.