The Twitter Interview: Cartoonist Daryl Cagle
DARYL CAGLE is a political cartoonist. Daryl Cagle is a syndicator. And not least of all, Daryl Cagle is a "magazine Web site" (via MSNBC.com) that publishes roughly 200 other editorial cartoonists. His site draws eyes, and his tweets draw more than 25,000 "followers."
What's the professional power of Twitter for cartoonists in 2009? Comic Riffs got Cagle's take on things. (Cagle was also quoted for the Post print story about this topic.)
MICHAEL CAVNA: Judging by various Twitter metrics, your site is doing extremely well in terms of traffic. Is this something you've cultivated gradually over time, or has this been a fairly rapid rise?
DARYL CAGLE: Twitter takes some time and attention. The big thing that cultivates new followers on Twitter for me is "retweets" - that is, when other Twitter users re-send my message out to their own lists of followers. Most of my "tweets" are links to funny cartoons, or our new topical collections of cartoons on http://cagle.msnbc.com, - good cartoons get "retweeted" a lot and a popular cartoon link can give me a burst of new followers.
I use Twitter a little differently than most users - I don't do a lot of "What are you doing?" trivial personal posts, I mostly link cartoons and things I see on the web that interest me. My followers know who I am and what to expect from me, and the general editorial cartooning theme to my postings, so I get a good rate of people actually looking at the posts.
MC: What about Twitter persuaded you to embrace it so thoroughly? And have you been at all surprised by the response?
DC: I especially like the 140 character limit to posts, which is perfect for giving a link to a great new cartoon on our site. When I post in my blog, I feel a responsibility to say something more substantial, which is a burden that makes me post less often.
Yes, the response on Twitter is surprising. Most surprising is how positive the fans are there, compared to the angry email I get from everywhere else.
MC:How do you view Twitter in relation to other networking tools? Short-term craze? Here to stay as an online force?
DC:Twitter is perfect for my workday - I come across little things all day that are easy to post on Twitter. The other social networking sites are complex and demanding. I haven't really gotten into them, although I have a Facebook page, which mostly reposts my Twitter tweets and blog posts; this seems to be pretty efficient, but I don't use Facebook, or any of the other social networking tools much.
Twitter is a huge success, so I'm sure other people feel the same way about it as I do. People who think Twitter is trivial aren't using it productively.
MC:For you and your business, Daryl, what are the biggest benefits to Tweeting? Any significant drawbacks?
DC:It is nice to be able to have the back and forth with the fans in real time. I use a tool that automatically refollows people who follow me, so you'll see that I follow just about as many people as follow me. I notice that the new celebrities who have flooded into Twitter don't follow back, so they can't get direct messages from fans and they are using Twitter only as a one-way broadcasting tool - that misses out on the power of Twitter and treats it like "old media."
I sometimes post an idea for a cartoon that I'm thinking of drawing on Twitter for comment, and I'll get dozens of immediate comments. Sometimes I take the advice and I'll choose not to draw an idea. A couple of times I've thrown out a theme and asked for cartoon ideas from the Twitter followers, and I've drawn a couple of their ideas. The back and forth is fun.
The audiences on Twitter are very different, and different users use Twitter in very different ways.
I have a wonderful bunch of active, responsive followers on Twitter! You can see the difference from the celebrity followers - take a look at my follower list and they almost all have photos, click on their profiles and they almost all have been posting to Twitter in recent hours. That's because my followers come from active Twitter users, mostly through retweets.
If you'll take a look at the list of a hot new Twitter star, like Jimmy Fallon (http://twitter.com/jimmyfallon) or David Gregory (http://twitter.com/davidgregory), you'll see that most of their followers have default images for their photos - long strings of default icons, page after page - the celebrity followers are not active - they come from solicitations in other media and typically have not even taken the time to upload a photo, much less actually use their Twitter account, other than to respond to the invitations to follow a celebrity.
My followers are great. The big celebrity followers are lousy. Twitter statistics can be misleading.
MC:Are you able to determine/measure whether Twitter significantly boosts your site's traffic?
DC:My followers are people who know my site, so I'm probably not getting more unique visitors from Twitter, but it is nice to use Twitter to direct them to the things I'd like for them to see and I'm sure it churns the audience and makes for more page views. There are tools to see how many people are responding to the links in my tweets, and I see that the response is good.
MC:Which cartoonists out there do you think are making particularly effective use of Twitter? And do you have any advice to those cartoonists who don't Tweet?
DC:I think it is fun to have the give and take with fans, but I'm not sure that most editorial cartoonists want that give and take with fans. The idea that I sometimes take cartoon advice from my Twitter followers is disgusting to some of my colleagues.
Since I work putting together the cagle.msnbc.com site and our syndicate, I deal with lots of cartoons each day; we're putting up new stuff on our sites all the time, so I'm in a good spot to recommend cool links all the time on Twitter. My situation may be unique among cartoonists. I suspect that most cartoonists don't have much professional use for Twitter.
| April 2, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Categories: Interviews With Cartoonists
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