Charlie Sheen: #Winning at Social Media (or alternatively, magically and effortlessly converting tin cans into pure gold)

In the last month, three people have joined Twitter with great fanfare. The King of All Media himself, Howard Stern, despite protesting for over a year that he “didn’t get Twitter”, joined the microblogging service after signing his new deal with SiriusXM. And he immediately broke new ground by live-tweeting along with an HBO airing of Private Parts, providing behind-the-scenes DVD-style commentary about the movie.

He also teased fans by promising provocative pictures of his wife in exchange for growing his follower base, and more importantly, has been regularly responding to fans since mastering the mechanics of retweets and replies. @HowardStern hasn’t lost steam and seems to be hooked on the service.

His foray into social media has been a success, but after the initial spike, his audience has plateaued, likely because of the limited reach of satellite radio. Stern has 330,000+ followers at Twitter.

The Rock, on the other hand, was quick out of the gates as well. After seven years of making movies, the wrestling superstar returned to the ring with a cross media promotion, simultaneously making an appearance on live TV on WWE’s Monday Night Raw while launching his Twitter Feed (@therock) and Facebook page within hours of each other. For The Rock, it was a triumphant return to the ring and an impressive debut in the social media squared circle. He’s nearing 200,000 followers on Twitter as of tonight.

But neither of these pop culture icons can complete with the juggernaut that is Charlie Sheen at this particular moment in time on March 1, 2011.

It took Charlie Sheen roughly five hours – five hours! – to catch Stern, passing him somewhere around 9:30 p.m. EST. As of 9:50 pm EST, he had three tweets, three hash tags (#winning, #winner and #chooseyourvice), two trending topics (“Charlie Sheen” and #winning), two twitpics and 360,000 followers. When word broke that Sheen had joined Twitter, he had at least 60,000 followers before he’d even released a single tweet, and the Internet waited with baited breath for his debut missive.

Compared to “I got magic and I got poetry in my fingertips, most of the time — and this includes naps — I’m an F-18, bro, and I will destroy you in the air and I will deploy my ordinance to the ground”, his initial tweets have been pretty tame, and honestly, a bit underwhelming. They failed to match the zeal (or unadulterated crazy) that he showered us with in his rambling radio sermons or TV diatribes. But Sheen, whose publicist reportedly quit on Monday after the star conducted a live interview on, may have figured out what we knew all along: With social media, he can disseminate his messages without the help of a publicist. And because he’s actually famous, people will listen and respond and retweet and react.

It’s pretty clear he’d gone off the PR reservation already in his public “war” with CBS and “Two and a Half Men” producer Chuck Lorre. And while it’s unclear what it will take to knock Sheen off the front page, he’s capitalizing on his notoriety the best way we know how in 2011: by blowing up Twitter with his own brand of nonsense, twitpics and hashtags.

If he can keep himself relevant for a few more days, Sheen stands to become Twitter’s biggest overnight sensation. After all, he literally just picked up 18,000 followers in the time it took me to write the last three paragraphs.

If that’s not the stuff of Tiger Blood and Adonis DNA, I don’t know what is. To paraphrase Sheen himself, if you can’t process it, stop trying. Just sit back and enjoy the show.

Update: As of 7:35 am on Wednesday, Sheen’s tweeted several more times (and reached almost 700,000 followers), and it’s not actually clear that he’s ever gone to bed since joining the service. He may be on the drug called “Charlie Sheen” first and foremost, but I’m starting to sense that he’s addicted to Twitter as well.

Good luck curing that with your brain, Charlie…

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