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I admit, out of all the social media sites out there, my favorite is twitter. When I first started using twitter, I thought of it  as this hollow canyon where I could shout out the most insane garbage, and every once in awhile, I would hear an echo. For instance, I could shout “Man, I would love to open a Korean pizzeria called Tae Kwon Dough!” and a few moments later I would hear, “Oh man, that would be awesome – let me know when it opens!”

Yes, twitter is a strange and wonderful place.

However, one thing that completely befuddles me and amazes me at the same time is the number of “fake” twitter accounts out there that somehow, probably through sheer stupidity, manage to garner thousands upon thousands of followers. Seriously, I’ve been on twitter since 2007, and I can barely crack 100 followers, yet the fake Will Ferrell account has a million followers – all because some dude in his one bedroom apartment keeps tweeting quotes from Talladega Nights.

These guys are hacks – and they are not what I would consider successful fake twitter accounts – these accounts gain followers through ignorance. A successful fake twitter account needs to have the following qualities:

1. Be so ridiculously obvious that they are a fake account

2. Be creative and original – not recycled tweets from other twitter accounts, news stories, or whatever Perez Hilton is blogging about.

3. Active, but not annoyingly so.

Last year, I conducted an experiment where I would create a fake twitter account and see how long it would take me to get to 2000 followers. Naturally, I wanted to choose someone who would be well known, but not enough that people would be following them. Fortunately, fate coincided and I decided to start the @StevenUrkel twitter account. Jaleel White was performing on Dancing with the Stars, so there was some media buzz around his name. I struck while the iron was hot. The first tweet that went out was “Anybody got any cheese?” – and from there, it took off. In the matter of 48 hours, I had my first 1000 followers, and by the following day, that number doubled to 2000. With each tweet, I was averaging 20 new followers. My retweets were through the roof, and almost every single thing I tweeted was favorited by someone. When you consider your potential reach – you might have 2000 followers, but a retweet out from those 2000 followers could potentially mean 20,000 people just saw your tweet. I was amazed at how simple it was to create buzz online through something so, dare I say, stupid.

About a month ago, I decided that I would attempt to try and do this on a local level. I live in a fairly small city, so I figured if I could get 200 followers – all local – I would consider it successful. I mean, some major local businesses don’t even have that many followers.

As luck would have it – there was a bear sighted in one of the local neighborhoods. It was also a slow news day, so every media outlet picked up on it. I picked up on it too – and early that morning before the news broke, the @KnoxvilleBear twitter account was born. Only a few hours into it – I had local media retweeting me, every news outlet was covering the twitter account, and I gained those 200 followers pretty quickly. By Saturday, the bear was caught, and that was the end of the account.

That is – until another bear showed up downtown.

In fact, there have been several bear reports over the past few weeks, and every time there has been one, I hop on that account and tweet something like “Did you miss me?’ or “Back in town for my mom’s birthday.”  As long as black bears keep wandering into Knoxville – the account will keep living. It was a surprise hit for me – and while I might not have millions of followers, the fact that a few hundred locals found it funny was enough for me.

So, what’s the point of this post?

You don’t need to aim big to have a successful twitter account – the main goal is to engage with a target audience. In my instance, it was people who were fans of the 90s television show Family Matters, and locals who were in love with a stupid, drunk bear who wandered around Knoxville for a few days and may or may not have made a couple restaurant reviews on Yelp as well.  Imagine that you are a local business, and you’re looking for some easy advertising – what better way to get it than have a bear tweet out that he’s going to hang out at your bar, or go visit the zoo. It’s incredible the amount of attention that it will generate.