Nov 2009

The Astonishing Success of Justin Halpern

Posted in Social Media | 0 Comments

They say that social media has the potential to make anyone a star, although it’s rare to see this actually happen to your everyday person who is noteworthy for nothing apart from his or her presence on a social networking website. Regular people nowadays can build thousands of followers, but every now and again, social media really does make a celebrity out of normal people. Take Justin Halpern, for example. The 29 year old from San Diego started a Twitter account to document the amusing things his father said. With fewer than 100 tweets sent, the account had amassed over 700,000 followers. And now, the CBS television network in the United States is considering turning the amusing quotes into a television comedy series. The LA Times also reports rumours of a book deal.


The BBC reports, via Hollywood Reporter, that Halpern may well co-write the show. Thus, we have a situation where a 29 year old who lives at home with his aging parents is soon to become a writer for a major television network, all because he began a Twitter account.

Of course, this isn’t particularly common. With more and more individuals and companies signing up to Twitter, being noticed in the crowds become harder and harder, and what was once a high follower count is now relatively normal. However, anything over 100,000 followers is obviously still a very large number, even if quite a few of them are corporate account or, at worst, spam. It is, however, still something of which we could never have dreamt recently: this person doesn’t even have to write for a blog or maintain any sort of public persona outside of posting things his father says onto Twitter. In that regard, Justin Halpern isn’t even the creative force behind the content.

This brings us to another interesting point, however. How much of something’s success is due to the creative aspects of the idea, and how much of it is due to the person who takes that idea and manages to do something with it? One could argue that all the best content in the world would go begging for an audience if it weren’t for people who knew what to do with it. In this regard, Justin is just as important as his father: He knows how to structure his father’s “content” such that it appeals to a large number of people. It probably helps that Halpern has experience in the world of online publishing: formerly a writer for Holy Taco, Halpern is now employed at Maxim.

Even with online publishing experience, it is still astonishing that someone could develop the following this Twitter account has in such a short period of time. To be fair, “niche” blogs are all the rage right now: websites that do nothing but post specific content like Failblog, Don’t Even Reply, and FML document messages all of a similar variety. There are many more sites like this which are doing equally well, and Halpern’s Twitter account fits neatly into this fashion, but is still an amazing story of success.

For businesses, the lesson is slightly thin; however can be summed up as a case of finding a catchy selling point with social media. Often, this appears to involve taking very obvious and common occurrences (such as the amusing things one’s family members say) and turning it into a cult success. Despite the television show and book deals, imagine if Justin had begun the Twitter feed with the intent of directly monetising it, coming to the project with a conversion plan and a secondary product that the tweets served to market. “Conversations” and branding aside, this has to be the goal of the majority of our social media endeavours.

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