How to Get 99,849 Twitter Followers By Doing Nothing

It’s simple.

Be the only person Conan O’Brian follows.

First, let’s take a look at Conan’s Twitter profile:

conan  twitter

9 million followers…

And he’s only following one…one very, very lucky person.

So who could this person be?

Surely they must be famous, you know, one of those comedian celebrity gods that seduce us with outrageous humor and ironic realizations.

Or maybe it’s one of Conan’s relatives, that would be make sense, too.

Let’s find out:

sarah killen twitter

Umm…who in the world is Sarah Killen?

Mystery ensues…

On March 5th, 2010, Conan O’ Brian posted the following tweet:

“I’ve decided to follow someone at random. She likes peanut butter and gummy dinosaurs. Sarah Killen, your life is about to change.”

Killen, now 22, has steadily received followers, starting with a boom up to about 15k back when Conan executed this social stunt, and has now reached over 100k.

Vulture conducted an interview with Killen, back on March 6th, 2010, to dig up some more context about how it all went down.

Basically, a Conan brand rep contacted Killen via MySpace (lol…MySpace) to let her know about the stunt.

Killen’s tweet content comprised of peanut butter, gummy dinosaurs, and other “random stuff.” She was engaged at the time (now has a baby) and resembled what seems like a completely innocent lifestyle – that is to say, a social history would do no harm to Conan. It’s not as if she had a background of crystal meth addiction or was serial mouse killer (although the latter would be pretty interesting!).


In the comment section of the Vulture interview, one user, Fleurdamour, made a particularly interesting point:

I can tell you why he picked her – she’s inoffensive. She won’t post anything that will embarrass him, and she isn’t the type to grab this wave and wring it for all it’s worth, like the Palin family or a reality show dummy. And, she’s happily engaged, so there won’t be any rumors that he’s having an affair with her. She’s middle American, and maybe he’s playing to that audience, trying to steal some of Leno’s thunder. At least she seems nice – she used the opportunity to raise charity money, instead of angling for free shoes.

While Fleurdamour’s position makes sense, and may have very well been what Conan’s marketing/PR team was thinking, we cannot deny the success – or rather, grand social appeal of this stunt.


It’s been over three years and Conan has remained steadfast in his commitment to “Following 1″.

Think about how this looks to all visitors on Conan’s twitter profile:

9 million followers, and only following 1.

We get so curious we have to click through and find out just who is so important, they’re deserving of being the only person Conan O’ Brian follows.

It’s naturally intriguing – there’s no doubt about that.

Conan is not the only celeb to sport a little or non-existent following count. Mashable notes 8 others.

This stunt strictly fuels the Conan brand image. All ripple effects that result as a cause of this stunt are impossible to measure – unless we were to track:

  • click through to Sarah Killen
  • subsequent clicks that result in going to Conan’s page, watching a video, or sharing a piece of media

So, to recap: you already knew it was impossible to get 100k followers by doing nothing, but now you’ve learned an interesting social media strategy.

Maybe incorporate elements of this in a social media campaign, such as:

  • reducing your twitter following count to 1
  • announcing you will follow 1 different person at random each month
  • providing a special discount/reward for that 1 person

Hmm…what do you think?

On a completely different note, for all my friends with back pain, I’ve just learned castor oil actually helps out a ton. That, and daily stretches. Now get off the computer, it’s Friday!


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Jesse Aaron

I'm a blogger, homebrewer, and community manager. Aside from writing, I have a passion for music and design.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • That’s a pretty interesting PR tactic Jesse, it’s got people talking about it so mission accomplished. Personally, I’ll stick to my slow growth until the masses finally realize what they’ve been missing. lol It is a shame that she doesn’t at least have a website to funnel a little of that traffic to but it sounds like that might have been her appeal to whomever thought of the stunt.

    I will say that I can appreciate a famous person attracting millions of followers over the deceptive people that follow everyone that will follow back just to unfollow them later after they’ve reached the numbers they want. That says a lot about those people’s character.

    BTW – I had to go look and see if Lovely Button was following Conan back. She is but it would have been hilarious if she wasn’t. 😉

    • hahaha! yes, they definitely made a “safe” pick. I agree with your sentiment towards the “deceptive” following strategy – slow and steady as they say :)

  • […] tweeting routine – he’s even done an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit. He’s mimed Conan’s follower strategy of just following 1 person and he understands the power of a great […]

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