Exiled U.S. traitor Edward Snowden is killing it on Twitter, you guys.
If you had asked me a year ago to list my favorite voices on Twitter, let alone those I admire for their social media prowess, Edward Snowden would not have been among them.
Without getting into the politics of his past actions that brand him a traitor (technically, yes), a folk hero (arguably) or both, his ubiquity on Twitter (more than 1.8 million followers; tweets 3-12x per day) serves both to further his brand and enable him to thumb his nose at the U.S. government as he continues to evade capture.
That he’d be both Twitter-popular and and a heavy user of social media I understand.
What I didn’t expect is that he’d be so good at it.
In the past week he has highlighted several meaningful implications of the FBI’s request that Apple jailbreak a terrorist’s iPhone. (Background on that here).
But Snowden has also come up with at least two masterful digs at celebrities, exhibiting both chutzpah and wit in the process.
Exhibit A: Kanye
Snowden’s response to Kanye West’s impassioned/desperate plea for users to join Tidal this week was both succinct and brilliant.
Snowden quoted Jeb Bush’s recent gaffe during a speech in New Hampshire, when he literally asked the audience to clap for him.
Score: Snowden, 1. Yeezy, 0.
Exhibit B: Bush
Snowden’s response to Jeb Bush’s misguided photo of a gun, with the caption “America” (already roundly mocked, see here) was both scathing and succinct:
Ahh, but what can we learn from this dear reader? How can we emulate Snowden to more effectively use social media?
1) Troll celebrities
A variation on news-jacking, a sneaky but effective way to build your social media brand is to mock celebrities. Snowden’s Tweet was covered by outlets including CBS News, The Wall Street Journal Blog and The Telegraph (UK).
2) Be Succinct
Both Snowden’s Kanye and Bush digs are less than four words apiece. Even in a universe limited to 140 characters, brevity is the soul of wit.
3) Respect Your Audience
Each of these tweets presumes an audience that is informed about current events – readers who understand the context.
Without foreknowledge of Jeb Bush’s “Please Clap” flap, the Kanye dig would have fallen flat.
Likewise, the Bush dig jumps immediately to editorial criticism, presuming that readers (other than Jeb Bush himself) understand the gun photo for the misguided attempt to pander to NRA advocates and Libertarians that it is.
The best part? We can implement these three Twitter takeaways from within the U.S., where we’re free to roam without fear of capture for treason.
(It’s the small things in life, really.)