13 Nov 2012

The Wrong Direction - lessons from a Twitter misadventure

I am not Eleanor’s dad. I’d like to make that perfectly clear before we begin. Just to make sure there is no possible misunderstanding, I repeat, I am NOT Eleanor’s dad.
I am a father but my daughter is only two years old and it's a bit early to be having the "inappropriate boyfriend" chat. Still with me? Just in case you are still in any way confused – I am not Eleanor’s dad.
What I am is a 40-something media executive. I help brands understand their target audiences, work out how to target them and help them get great rates on the right media platforms. I work for MediaCom, part of WPP – trust me, this is not a plug, it will become relevant later on – and I’m also chairman of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising in Scotland.
If you want to know why I am so keen to deny all involvement in Eleanor’s paternity, then you’ll need to delve into the tweenage poposphere. Eleanor Calder – who shares my surname but none of my genes – is, apparently, the girlfriend of One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson. Who knew? Not me.
At this stage you also need to know that One Direction came third on X Factor in 2010 (picking up the obligatory record contract with Simon Cowell’s Syco). They have since broken America and are officially massive. Or so I've been reliably informed. In the interests of full disclosure, I have been known to play the odd DJ set but I can’t recall ever playing any One Direction tracks.
So, back to the story: One day last week, into my Twitter pops a curious message – “Are you Eleanor’s Dad?”. It’s a bit random and I’m travelling on business so I leave it.
Next day my feed is crawling with similar questions but they’ve taken a conspiratorial turn. The tweenage detectives have discovered my Twitter profile – @MediaCom_Murray – and they now know that I work for MediaCom Edinburgh.
Further deductions – all faithfully recorded on Tumblr – include that the fact that MediaCom have deals with Viacom – not that surprising as we are the UK’s largest media agency – that Viacom owns MTV and that 1D (See, I’m getting the hang of this now) get a lot of airplay on MTV.
Finally they discover a corporate link between Viacom and Syco via Sony Music. The only possible conclusion: “it is highly likely, that Mediacom (sic) do have business with the band.”
And there’s more. It says my wife Kim Hickman works for Next Model Management and Eleanor is often referred to as a model. Clearly our connections and power have pushed Eleanor into the path of Louis and created the opportunity for love.
Except that my wife is called Emma, is a self-employed graphic designer and would rather lock our daughter in a tower than let her even listen to a boyband. These posts have been reblogged and liked hundreds of times. I think they are all a bit mental (if that’s politically correct).
By this time my Twitter feed is getting pretty clogged up and I have become part of an online meme #eleanorfacts. It’s gone global. Some of the messages are now in Italian but fortunately most of these never reach me.
On the plus side, it’s doing wonders for my followers, which have risen by dozens in just a couple of days.
Everyone in the office thinks it’s hysterical except for me. I use Twitter to communicate with colleagues and clients in other offices and learn from the interesting people I follow and it’s becoming harder and harder to sift the wheat from the very considerable 1D chaff.
Eventually I crack and tweet: “Who the hell is Eleanor? Getting asked 15 times a day if I'm her Dad. I can assure everyone that I'm not. Now please piss off. Thanks.”
And the circus starts again. I get retweeted. And favourited. Fortunately I also finally gain some supporters. @Eleanorfacts with his/her 53,000 followers comes to my rescue with a message that’s plain as can be: “Eleanor's dad doesn't work for Mediacom, Viacom or Syco. #EleanorFacts Stop the conspirancies.” (sic).
I even get the odd apology for the inconvenience. Which is nice.
So finally (I think) it’s over…
Then I get asked if I know Tina (Eleanor's sister as far as I can gather). Then if I know Louis himself. I deny both allegations strenuously. And am instantly bombarded with 1D spam telling me I've won tickets to see them live. Whoopee.
So, what did I learn from my three days as an object of 1D attention?
Obviously I found out that tweenage pop fans are even more obsessive than I could have imagined and that the internet helps you connect two and two and make eight. No blinding insight there though really.
But I also learnt that in the age of Twitter, rapid and categorical response is the best weapon you have. If I’d replied to that first message definitively then none of this might have happened.
I also found it pretty exhausting and it only lasted three days. God knows how Justin Bieber or Lady GaGa cope.
One more thing… If you are my Secret Santa at this year’s office party, please, please, please don’t buy me a 1D album. Not even as a joke.

*UPDATE* - Bianca, the One Direction fan who wrote the post that kicked all this off has apologised to me for putting me through "all this crap". Restores your faith in the youth of today, doesn't it?