How not to hold on to 400,000 followers (…not a problem I’ve had yet)

Comic by HubSpot

Alexander Broad may not be a household name but he was the biggest thing in Sochi. No, he didn’t win a medal. He didn’t even compete. He didn’t actually set foot in Sochi, or even Russia.

But from his Toronto bedroom, dorm, dunny, or wherever it is that 20-year-old college students perform their social media mischief, he became the talk of the town, creating the Twitter handle @SochiProblems and chronicling the assorted stuff-ups that had beset the host city.

It was hilarious stuff. And catching. Within a week, Alex amassed 345,000 followers, leapfrogging the official Sochi Olympics account. At its peak, @SochiProblems had more than 400,000 followers. In subsequent media stories, the journalism major’s Twitter lark was estimated to be worth $745,000. Which to any kid in their 20s – other than Mark Zuckerberg – is a lot of money.

As one of Alex’s mates tweeted: “wow do you ever have a powerful account to mess with after this is all done, haha.”

To which Alex replied: “Thanks, and I know I have no clue what I’m going to do haha.”

And then the wheels fell off.

Every second @CanuckProblems tweet mentions Tim Hortons coffee Picture by Peter Broster
@CanuckProblems has a Tim Hortons coffee addiction
Picture by Peter Broster

First, with Alex going public, @SochiProblems immediately lost its mystique. Then the Olympics started and the focus turned to, you know, actual sport. Finally, with the Olympics over, Alex changed @SochiProblems to @CanuckProblems. Which created a whole set of Alex Problems.

People wondered why they were suddenly following someone who had a strange fixation with Tim Hortons coffee (a Canadian McDonald’s but without the burgers, from what I can make out) and ended every sentence with ‘eh’.

Some demanded of Twitter: “Did we get hacked?” Others complained the tweets just weren’t funny. You be the judge.

Those who cottoned on to the Twitter account switcheroo were harshest of all. “This is super lame switching your account to keep the followers,” chastised one. “You know soulless corporations use the same tactic right?” Plus, there was this.

As it all unravelled, followers left in droves, more than 110,000 of them to date. “I’m watching Alex’s account nosedive,” one of his mates helpfully observed. Alex offered the apology below. Even this was dismissed as ‘typically Canadian’.

It’s been a fortnight Alexander Broad is not likely to forget in a hurry, a fortnight in which he was the toast of the planet and then just toast. He notes wryly that his follower numbers are falling as fast as the chances of the Edmonton Oilers making the ice hockey playoffs.

But those that are staying – and there are still 290,000 of them at this moment – seem happy to engage in a conversation about Canada and all its foibles. Who knows, maybe the gear change will pay off after all.

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