Twitter and the Jimmy Fallon Experiment
I’ve been following Jimmy Fallon on Twitter for several months now, and I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon developing (at least in my own mind). Jimmy Fallon on Twitter, as a marketing experiment, is totally working! Fallon and team reached out to the Web early and often as he prepared to take over “Late Night,” with online content and lots of honest, earnest Twittering. And now I really feel like he’s One Of Us — and I kind of want him to do well, and I kind of want to protect him from those who would tear him down. So, even though I watched the first “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” episodes, and they weren’t, you know, awesome … I find that I want to like them. And I get the sense that the Twitter community has been mostly (although probably not completely) supportive, and will keep supporting him as long as he keeps on being a regular dude on Twitter. And that could help the show, and that means that the whole crazy thing might just work!
I have the same generally warm feelings about Rick Sanchez from CNN, who basically re-tooled his entire show around online contributions in real-time, and who isn’t just a little bit in love with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh? I guess the point I’m getting at is this: we all know how the Internet often causes people to be really mean, but when the Internet actually personalizes people, I think it can also make us act a lot nicer. (I definitely found that once I started Twittering and interacting with people on Facebook and generally being a real part of the online community, people started being a lot nicer to me in public and in print, partly just because it’s humanizing to hear about someone’s day or see photos of their kid all the time.)
That’s where Fallon is winning. He seems kind of cool. You want to like him. On the other hand, if he debuted on “Late Night” as your average, one-step-removed famous person with a new show, no matter how lovable he was on SNL or in movies or whatever, we’d still shred the show. And it’d be even worse than when Conan O’Brien debuted on “Late Night” and kind of stunk it up, because this is the Internet age, and the Internet can be mean as hell. You have to win over the Internet, or it’ll be a whole lot worse and more unforgiving than it ever was to poor Conan. He survived his early, terrible episodes. Fallon, without a lot of blogging goodwill, might not. Echo chamber being what it is these days, it’s harder to overcome bad press.
But don’t go thinking that simply Twittering will make people like you more, famous people and big brands. Fallon, Sanchez, Tony, and other affection-inspiring Twitterers like MC Hammer, and Shaquille O’Neal are not necessarily the norm. Many of the Twittering celebs that are capturing media attention lately are banal, mostly just talking to other celebs, mainly bot-posted, or just kind of baffling. I think the lesson is simply that in these online communities, just like in life (all due respect to Arrington, here), you get back what you put in. The Twitter winners are interesting, genuine, and legitimately engaged in their communities, and that’s why we’re inspired to be nice to them when we get the chance. The less human the attempt at humanizing, the more likely it is to fail. Jimmy Fallon on Twitter is a successful experiment, at least so far, because it’s let a broader audience see, first-hand, that Jimmy Fallon seems like a good guy who says funny stuff. I guess in that way it just reinforces what we already know: people will be inclined to like you if you’re nice to them and you seem like a decent human being. I know. Shocker, right?