If you’re one of the 11,000 people who decided to follow @Irene on Twitter to keep up with hurricane news, you may want to unfollow, now that the account has reverted to its pre-hurricane status as an “agency soapbox” for a product strategist (named Irene, of course) at marketing agency Huge Inc.
Irene Tien snagged the @Irene account on Twitter back in 2006, and had about 600 followers until a few days ago. When news about the hurricane began dominating all media in existence and yet to be invented, she found herself with some new friends, and initially warned them that “tweeting messages to @irene doesn’t deliver any messages to the hurricane.”
However, when a couple of her colleagues at Huge decided that her account could be “an accessible personification of the hurricane herself,” she let them take over. As she explains in an AdAge column:
So the account became a venue for more than just jokes. We wanted to be a central resource for updates and warnings about the hurricane. Our team even liaised with FEMA and offered to give them access to the account if they should need it as the storm developed.
The first hurdle, though, if we really were going to imitate a huge threat to property and safety without pissing anyone off was tone. @Irene had to have a female point of view. She had to be a self-aware disaster who understood her potential to cause devastation and that she had no control over her actions. (We all had decided earlier that if things turned ugly, the tone would shift accordingly.)
With CNN on in the background and Twitter providing all the real time information they needed from official sources, Ross and Bjorn made jokes about the coverage of the storm, but also posted relevant information from sources like FEMA and the mayor’s office.
Tien says that the account was never used to “promote ourselves or to promote Irene,” and she’s been upfront about her role at Huge, and her plans to retake her account. So, if you’re hoping for more weather updates, and now find her tweeting about Internet marketing, you’ll know why.