Say what you will about Charlie Sheen, he has become a social media superstar. I recently had a chance to meet Charlie, and to run a few questions by Bob Maron, the guy who runs the @CharlieSheen Twitter account.
First, here’s how I met Charlie Sheen:
Comedian Jeffrey Ross is an old friend. As you may know, Jeff was asked to join Sheen’s “Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not an Option” tour to add some fun by roasting Sheen on stage. When the tour was at the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut, Jeff invited me down to see the show. I went, and Jeff introduced me to Charlie, who couldn’t have been nicer. The show was fun, and Jeff was hilarious as usual.
A few days later, Jeff put me in touch with Bob, who agreed to answer a few questions for this blog post.
Bob is not a social media professional. He’s a watch dealer, and a friend of Charlie. But many of the things Bob told me come straight out of the social media professional’s playbook: Good content, honesty, and a willingness to listen are the keys to success.
How did you end up managing Charlie’s Twitter account?
I’ve been his friend for a long time, and I had tried to convince him to get on to Twitter for a couple of years and he wasn’t really interested, although he was intrigued by it. When he went on the talk shows and did all the interviews — Piers Morgan, 20/20, Today Show, etc. — he realized he had become a bit of a hot button and he wanted to be able to continue to reach out to his fans without censorship. So he called me early in the morning and said “What do you think about this Twitter thing? If I go on there it might be an outlet for me to talk directly to my fans and create a fan base.” We both agreed that it would be a good idea. So a day later, we had a million followers.
A lot of people that call themselves social media experts. You’re not one of them and you go out of your way to tell people that you’re a watch dealer not a “tweetmaster.” How do you think you’ve been successful in this role?
I realized that if I created a little bit of a hype — which I didn’t have a lot of time to do — that [Charlie] was coming on to Twitter and got an account open and verified, that the longer I let it sit without tweeting — without actually sending out a tweet — the more it would be anticipated and reported on.
The first few tweets Charlie and I carefully orchestrated so that they would create enough interest and buzz that a lot more people would jump on the bandwagon. It worked. We were wildly successful. We had one million followers 24 hours later. Guinness called and said “you broke a record” and Twitter was just amazed, they couldn’t believe it. Nobody expected it to work as well as it did. And by continuing to make good tweets, interesting pictures, etc….we made sure that we took the first few tweets right inside his house — in his kitchen, in his living room, giving people sort of a back door view [into Charlie's life.]
How much of what Charlie says on Twitter comes directly from him and how much of it is filtered through you?
I think in the beginning I had more of an influence than I do now. Charlie’s a really smart guy and he caught on very quickly and he’s taken a big role and he enjoys it. He likes getting on there and tweeting.
How much of the jump into Twitter and social media was an effort to be part of the conversation, rather than just the subject of it?
The last thing he needed was publicity. He’s got that. So the move to Twitter and Facebook wasn’t a publicity move so much as a way to reach fans. Don’t forget, we signed up on Twitter February 28 and our account was up and running March 1. He didn’t get fired [from the CBS comedy “Two and a Half Men”] until March 7. And, rather than have the news media edit his words, we knew that getting on there would allow him to speak directly to the public.
On the power of social media to do good
One of the most significant things that happened on the tour was a young man named David Harris, a student at the University of Alabama, sent a tweet saying, “Hey, Alabama needs you, why don’t you come down here?”
And we went, we toured, we met the mayor, we met the police chief. We have a web site torpedoesagainsttornatoes.com, and we’re raising crazy money for relief funds for these guys and we’re planning on May 23rd [fundraiser.]
He raised money for Bryan Stow [the San Francisco Giants fan who was attacked in a Dodger Stadium parking lot] and the bipolar awareness [walk] that he did in Toronto where he raised significant money for these causes.
A lot of these ideas came from things he read on Twitter, people talking to him. He reads it. He’s involved. He’s involved with his fan base. And what better way to get involved? I don’t know how many celebrities read their fan mail or how many people send fan mail today. But I’ve never seen him read fan mail. But I see him with the phone in his hand reading those replies.
People on Twitter were pretty unkind when the tour first started in Detroit. How did he take that? How did you react to that?
It’s not just that people on Twitter were unkind. The show was a meltdown. It didn’t work.
He was up all night, rewrote the show. Believe me, when the show ends, we’re on Twitter seeing how people really felt about the show. And, like I said earlier, it helped us gauge what people wanted to see.
You’re a watch dealer. I wear a $30 Timex watch. Does that make me a bad person?
(Laughs) Not at all. In fact the Warlock himself owns a Timex watch. He wears it on a Patek Philippe strap with a Patek buckle, but it it’s a Timex watch.