Only 24 hours after Charlie Sheen got started on Twitter with @CharlieSheen, he had amassed more than 900,000 followers, easily one of the fastest follower roll-ups the service has seen. Howard Stern, who signed up nearly a month ago, still only has 355,000.
But how did the all-over-the-news actor get his handle from whoever was squatting on @CharlieSheen before? And how did he get it verified so quickly?
Enter internet startup Ad.ly, which says it brokered his account with Twitter. Ad.ly, which runs celebrity endorsements through Facebook and Twitter, represents a range of bold-faced names on social media, including Kim Kardashian, Snoop Dogg, Paris Hilton and -- though there isn't any deal in place yet -- most likely Charlie Sheen eventually. If advertisers will have him.
The U.K.'s GQ.com first noted Ad.ly's involvement.
We spoke with Ad.ly CEO Arnie Gullov-Singh about how it all happened.
Ad Age: When did this all start?
Arnie Gullov-Singh: Yesterday morning, Charlie's team reached out to me. This is not unusual, we do a lot of this for Hollywood celebrities.
Ad Age: And what did they want?
Mr. Gullov-Singh: They told us he wanted to get on Twitter because he wants to have a direct conversation with his fans to tell his side of the story. So we got him the @charliesheen account, which was being squatted on.
Ad Age: It was already taken.
Mr. Gullov-Singh: Yeah, and then we got him verified through Twitter.
Ad Age: I thought Twitter doesn't verify accounts any more. How were you able to do that for Charlie Sheen?
Mr. Gullov-Singh: You're right -- it is a little bit confusing. We know a bunch of people at Twitter, and we reached out to them and told them that probably the biggest name in media right now wants to be on your platform and, of course, they were all right with it. But you're right that Twitter doesn't verify, but they make exceptions. The thing about verification in general is that Twitter was getting overwhelmed with requests to be verified -- they don't have a team for this. Same thing at Facebook.
Ad Age: Great. So you set up his account, and you got him verified. Is it really him that's tweeting, and not his team?
Mr. Gullov-Singh: It's absolutely him. We know because we talked to him yesterday.
Ad Age: You saw him?
Mr. Gullov-Singh: Not me. But my staff talked to him on the phone.
Ad Age: So how did he sound?
Mr. Gullov-Singh: They all said he was super-excited, super-focused, totally understood the value of talking directly to his fans. And then we spent some time with him and his managers, basically saying here are some best practices: use hashtags; use Bit.ly if you're going to link to stuff; and post photos. People love to see celebrity pictures.
Ad Age: So all this happened yesterday morning?
Mr. Gullov-Singh: We were finished setting it up by 12 noon yesterday, and at 1 p.m., he posted his first tweet, and now he's got 900,000-plus followers -- it's amazing. Charlie clearly got it, how it worked, what to do. He started doing with some hashtags, like the #tigerblood one, and #winning. Look, he had the No. 1 TV show for a while, he knows how to talk to his fans.
Ad Age: Ad.ly is in the business of securing endorsement deals for celebrities on social media. Has anyone expressed interest in @charliesheen?
Mr. Gullov-Singh: Oh, it's early days -- it's been under 24 hours. Call me tomorrow and we'll see what's happening. Our phone's been ringing off the hook.