@StephenFry on #Twitter – a new media channel for charity marketing


I feel if you are going to come out, you might as well be up front about it.

So, deep breath, here goes.

I have started following @Stephen Fry on Twitter.

At the time of writing, I am just one of his 1,764,195 followers. But I also have a confession to make and I feel, if you have a confession to make, you might as well be up front about it so here goes.

I have followed Stephen Fry to try to understand why so many others do, how Twitter works, what drives people to use it, what they get out of it – both as Tweeters and Followers – and I guess this is the real confession, to gain a deeper understanding of Twitter from for professional rather than personal reasons.

I am not really interested in the minutiae of Stephen Fry’s life. Nor, I am sure, is he in mine. As he follows 53,321 people, I am a long way down the list. But I do enjoy his quaint use of language (“Oh dear, I’m developing an absolute fartweasel of a cold.”).

There are two particular reasons that make me professionally interested in Twitter:

1. I don’t think that even the people who started it knew what they were doing or where it might lead, especially not to where it is now. Twitter is a phenomenon.

2. Twitter polarises people as much as any media channel I have known. It is that ‘love it or hate it’ thing again. (Now it has come out, doesn’t that phrase come up more and more often these days?).

Anyway, I have decided the only way to understand Twitter is to get back to basics.

While I am at it, I’m just going to make myself a cup of tea. Or rather a mug, which I prefer – builders is fine, white, half a sugar. People are interested in these things.


Right, I’m back. Forgive me. Lovely mugga tea. Blissikins. 

An advertising friend of mine once described an industry colleague as follows:

“The trouble with Blogs is that, while most of us are born with Transmit and Receive antennae, he has two Transmit and no Receive. He just talks and doesn’t listen”.

These two words, transmit and receive, are very important in marketing and media.

In fact, they pretty much sum the whole thing up.

Let’s take TV. I remember the days before remote controls were invented and one of the family had to get up and press a button on the telly to change channels. This was a bore so, usually, no one bothered and we watched the ads.

We ‘received’ what was transmitted to us. Other than in person, and a few short-wave radio geeks, the only way to transmit to people was by the telephone, which was attached by a wire to a box in the hall, so we didn’t have many options.

We lived in a world of ‘reception’.

And, by the way, the reception was pretty poor. Remember those pictures of the man on the moon? I wish we were there now. I would love to see what the moon is really like. In space, we seem to have taken a giant leap backwards in time.

Anyway, back on Earth, since we landed on the moon, the world has changed completely. Technology has focussed on human beings rather than outer space. Apart, from those satellites, of course, which are up there to receive messages and transmit them back to us.

So now we live in a world of ‘transmission’.

And Twitter is the ultimate transmission medium. Mankind has never known anything like it. People are twittering all over the place. Hence my professional interest.

Sorry, the doorbell has just gone.


Phew. That was the postman. He had a package to deliver. Lucky I was here. I have posted on this before: http://bit.ly/ccIQBm.

OMG, SO lucky I didn’t miss him! That would have really cheesed me off. Bah. 

Let’s get back to Twitter.

With a different hat on, I have been Tweeting for 18 months as @Tweeterbookclub. My idea here was to recommend a book a day and attract book readers to www.lovereading.co.uk, which I co-founded.

This was purely a ‘transmit’ strategy. But, daily, more and more people want to receive messages from @Tweeterbookclub. It now has nearly 3,000 followers which is respectable, I think.

Mind you, if I did a trawl back through all these people, I bet loads of them haven’t used Twitter for months. They must have tried Twitter and given up.

That is one insight about Twitter. These long lists aren’t as ‘active’ as they seem.

Another is that I can’t be bothered to do this trawl because you cannot re-arrange your lists. You have to plough through page after page, rather like trying to discover a new book on Amazon (I mean #Amazon). You can’t re-order lists by Name or Subject or Date or Size like you can on, say, #MicrosoftOutlook.

Anyway, I thought I should know more about Twitter than ‘transmit’ and so recently I registered as @TheSalmonAgency. My rule is that if you follow me, I’ll follow you.

I still don’t think people can really be interested in the minutiae of my day-to-day life, so my thought I would post one little insight on a social and/or media related issue that came to mind such as:

– #Fedex announce three-year tennis sponsorship deal, but why don’t they make more use of that inspirationally designed arrow in their logo?

– Why are they thinking of banning English cricketers from Twitter? Surely they should censor the message not the medium?

– If we are lobbying the Indian Government to legalise and thereby control gambling, why doesn’t the same principle apply to drugs here?

That sort of thing.

Also, as @TheSalmonAgency, I have followed Stephen Fry and I have discovered something quite interesting.

I have no idea how he manages to ‘receive’ messages from 53,321 tweeters but, in amongst all the trivia, he does ‘transmit’ messages for charitable causes that seem able to engage him. Here are some examples:

– Wonderful, moving video from @elephantfamily http://bit.ly/cXINFt – Sign the petition to help save the Asian elephant

– Laughter’s a good way to end stigma in mental health. Madpride! http://tinyurl.com/2ua9lm8 – ‘Celebrate Difference, Stop Loneliness’

– Do support Woolly Hat Day @WoollyHatDay and help raise money to end homelessness www.mungos.org/woollyhatday

– PDC’s official charity @SignHealth are creating a world record for the most people playing darts at the same time http://bit.ly/96uMN1

Now, I’ve been a Trustee of a charity and I know how difficult it is to squeeze money out of people. With over 163,000 charities registered in England and Wales, it is a vitally important and highly competitive sector.

And so I do think his ‘audience’ of 1,764,192 followers, despite knowing that many of them are inactive, makes @StephenFry really quite an important media channel.

Which is also, presumably, free.

Toodle pip.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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