Over the past few days, the story of a hippo trapped in a pool had people in South Africa captivated. As is the case with many newsworthy animals nowadays, “the hippo” (christened Solly) started tweeting about what he was going to do once he got out of the pool. Unfortunately rescue workers were not able to save Solly, who died today. Word is that he will continue tweeting in ghost form. In a bid to give him — and any other animal — the best start possible, the Sandton Pythons (who escaped from their Johannesburg homes in early 2012 and became a social media phenomenon) decided to offer up what they’d learned in their time on Twitter.
We’re so sorry about what happened. Like a lot of others, we’d been following your story and when you followed our example and started tweeting, we were thrilled. In fact, we were looking forward to having some fun with you after you were rescued and started life in the rhino sanctuary. That’s the tough thing about being a famous animal that starts tweeting — you can’t predict the turns that real life will take.
We’re lucky to be safe and sound in our Gallo Manor home after escaping earlier this year. Real life events have made it difficult for @ModimolleHippo to carry on tweeting unless it’s
from hippo heaven, but the news has a habit of throwing up tweetable events. @PanjotheTiger was the first famous South African escapee to start tweeting back in 2010 and we were inspired specifically by @BronxZoosCobra, who escaped in 2011. @AnfieldCat, who achieved fame by ambling across a certain football field, is still tweeting with great success, though @FalseBayShark seems to have lost interest.
Like all of those creatures, we started tweeting when interest was high. While we haven’t achieved anything like those follower numbers, we have been consistent and we do have good relationships with key media figures. So we don’t think it would be too cheeky to offer some advice on how to use Twitter if you’re going to keep tweeting once your fifteen minutes of fame is up.
1. Have opinions
After we were found and put back in our heated room with all the other snakes, we couldn’t tease followers about where we were hiding, so we had to find other things to talk about. We had to shift from report-style tweeting to opinion. Mainly this involves politics and sarky one-liners
2. Be entertaining
It’s tough to maintain interest once the story that created the account peters out. To keep followers interested, you have to stay entertaining, and that means being good at one-liners.
3. Form relationships with key media
Dolce and I regularly watch @eNCAnews. When top anchor Jeremy Maggs started responding to our tweets about his ties, a relationship was born. We’ve also started chatting to Iman Rappetti, whose comments about finding you a mate did cause concern. There’s far too much pressure to be in a relationship these days, especially for a youngster like you who’s still finding his way in the veld.
4. Find a tone of voice
This is why Gabbana (that’s me) tweets, but not Dolce, who is happy to admit that he is lazy and shallow. I have opinions on politics, so I’m more suited to the medium. We’re just snakes, so we can say what we like.
5. Keep the conversation going
If people are going to go to the trouble of following you, reward them for it. We only tweet when we have something to say — not easy when our lives, which revolve around digesting rats, are so boring, This is why we’re disciplined about watching @eNCAnews and commenting on Jeremy Maggs’s ties. It’s also why we’re so sad about @ModimolleHippo, because this gave us something to talk about — and a reason to write this, our first piece of social media advice. (We’re thinking of becoming social media consultants, like everybody else. We have yet to form a firm opinion on Klout scores — ours is 44.)
6. Pay attention to which account you’re tweeting from
An obvious one, but it’s so easy to tweet from the wrong account and give yourself away, and it’s no fun if anyone knows who you really are.
Why would an animal want to keep tweeting once the story is over? Well, it’s always useful to keep an alter ego in your back pocket. Tweeting animals can say things you probably can’t, and that’s
nice to have (trust us, we know).
We were going to say good luck, and keep the iPad dry, and that’s all meaningless now. You were a nice distraction — a South Africa full of wild animal dramas is closer to the National Geographic fantasy we want to sell to the tourists after all — and we’re really sorry your story was cut short. If there are any animals who would like to tweet but don’t know where to begin, you can find us on Twitter @sandtonpython.
PS. We know we have a lot to learn and we’re keen on finding a digital agency that will take us on as interns. So far one called Quirk is looking promising as it’s just down the road from us and we hear they have a hamster called Justin Spratt. Just dropping a hint.