07.23.09 9:02 AM ET
Martha Stewart, Twitter Maniac
How do you make guacamole in 140 characters? The homemaking mogul tells The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove why she's chosen Twitter over Facebook and her secret recipe for winning a million followers.
In the escalating rivalry between the two hottest social-networking sites, the gargantuan Facebook and the up-and-coming Twitter, Martha Stewart seems to be taking sides. The multimedia lifestyle mogul is a proud member of Team Twitter.
“I just love it so much more than Facebook,” the 67-year-old Stewart told me this week, as she basked in the triumph of passing the million-follower milestone on her personal Twitter account (as of Wednesday, her followers numbered 1,093,110 and rising). “First of all, you don’t have to spend any time on it, and, second of all, you reach a lot more people. And I don’t have to ‘befriend’ and do all that other dippy stuff that they do on Facebook.”
For the Wild West of the World Wide Web, them’s fightin’ words. But the folks at Facebook—which tried and failed to buy the smaller company for a reported $500 million last November—are keeping their powder dry, at least for now.
Proportionally, Stewart has been getting substantially more bang for the tweet than Sean Combs (Twitter name “iamdiddy”) and Ashton Kutcher (aka “aplusk”).
“I think Martha has built a tremendous fan base and she obviously knows how to use many different ways to communicate with them,” said Brandee Barker, Facebook’s communications director. “I’m a big fan of Martha Stewart and her brand—and I hope she finds more ways to use Facebook.”
Indeed, Stewart tried to walk back her critique in a subsequent phone call to me (after an apparently unhappy Facebook executive privately expressed concern), pointing out that Martha Stewart Omnimedia does plenty of business with the Palo Alto, California-based behemoth and has scheduled a meeting with the Facebook team for early next week.
“I’m not knocking Facebook,” Stewart said. “We use both Facebook and Twitter [at MSO]. They’re very different tools, and I personally don’t use Facebook. I prefer Twitter as a means of mass communication—it’s the Wal-Mart of the Internet.”
Besides, she added, “They’re all going to be owned by the same company eventually.”
Far be it from me to quibble with Stewart’s bold prediction—which, coming from her, is probably savvier than most. But there’s little doubt where her heart is: The screen on her BlackBerry is the window on her soul.
“With minimal effort—and I really mean it: I spend less than five minutes a day on Twitter—I have been able to garner over 1 million followers in a 4½-month period, with very few tweets, by the way,” Stewart told me.
“You have to sort of look at the different accounts and compare,” she said, adding that, proportionately, she has been getting substantially more bang for the tweet than Sean Combs (Twitter name “iamdiddy”) and Ashton Kutcher (aka “aplusk”). If you do the math on a per-tweet basis, Martha is twice as popular as Ashton and more than three times as popular as Diddy.
“It’s sort of interesting to me how quickly you can build an audience that actually pays attention to what you say,” Stewart told me. “And I don’t use too many gimmicks, either. Like, Ellen DeGeneres gives away a tremendous amount of stuff every day. I think somebody’s getting a car today. What we do have, every single day, is a recipe in 140 characters. It’s sort of a shorthand and you have to figure it out. It’s really not so hard once you get the hang of it. Today I have one for piña colada and people loved it. On other days it’s been guacamole, blueberry crisp, and crab cakes.
“Sometimes I enjoy doing something a little controversial. Last week I went to see Brüno and let everybody know from the movie theater, and I asked, ‘Is it about decorating?’ I like to make believe that I’m stupid sometimes. People tweeted right back within seconds. What’s kind of fun is you’re reaching the largest possible mass audience in no time.”
Stewart, whose Twitter page is graced with wallpaper featuring her beloved French bulldog Sharky, assured me that her tweets are the unexpurgated Martha, not the product of corporate spinmeisters. “Nobody’s doing it except Martha,” she said. “The only other person who helps me is Eliad, my techie guy who does the links for me and stuff that the BlackBerry can’t do.”
She added that Twitter “is a tool, a fine tool, and if you have the followers and they trust you, then you can use it to good advantage….I was having dinner with my Purina clients, but they’re not tweeters, and I showed them that we got a response in really two seconds. I really think it’s mainstream and all ages—not so much kids.”
Stewart has even tweeted a couple of spot surveys, asking her followers their reasons for tweeting and other information, and putting the data in a pie chart (which, in this case, has nothing to do with crusts and fillings).
To celebrate her first million, Stewart is giving away tickets to her television show and lunch in the studio to four of her followers. And being Martha Stewart, she isn’t resting on her laurels.
“I’d like 10 million,” she declared.
Lloyd Grove is editor at large for The Daily Beast. He is also a frequent contributor to New York magazine and was a contributing editor for Condé Nast Portfolio. He wrote a gossip column for the New York Daily News from 2003 to 2006. Prior to that, he wrote the Reliable Source column for the Washington Post, where he spent 23 years covering politics, the media, and other subjects.