Tom Gounley Talks About Being the Student Behind the Fake Prez Huddleston Twitter Account
Majors: English/journalism and environmental conservation studies
Hometown: Newport News, Virginia
Q: What are your post-graduate plans?
A: I'm moving halfway across the country and taking on a role as the social media specialist for the Springfield (Missouri) News-Leader. I'll be managing social media accounts, working on increasing audience engagement and doing a little writing as well. I'm excited to get to continue to play in the social media realm.
Q: When did you start the @PrezHuddleston Twitter account?
A: I started the account at 2 a.m. on March 8, 2011. We were just wrapping up a production night at The New Hampshire (TNH).
Q: Where did you get the idea to create the account?
A: In the months before, I had been following @MayorEmanuel, the parody Twitter account created by Dan Sinker while Rahm Emanuel was running for mayor of Chicago. I was amazed at how it took satire to a new level and onto a new platform. Additionally, it had long been a running joke at TNH that I should create a parody account for Mark Huddleston, largely because I followed his actual Twitter account so closely.
Q: How did you keep it a secret for so long?
A: I knew that it was best for the account; things wouldn't have been the same if people knew. It would have been like knowing the secret behind the magic trick. Even though people knew there was a student behind it, they want to believe that there wasn't. I didn't want to deny that from them. But I did want credit for everything at the end, obviously.
Q: Did anyone know you were the man behind Fake Prez?
A: All of the editors at TNH knew, and all the students I studied abroad with in New Zealand during the fall did as well. If you asked any of them, you'd probably find that I talked about the account all the time - far more often than they wanted to hear about it.
Q: Were you surprised by how much attention it got?
A: Absolutely. I set out to be successful, but I definitely didn't expect to read about the account in USA Today and the Washington Post, or to have local media coverage of the day I revealed my identity. I was amazed by how much people enjoyed it.
Q: How many followers do you have?
A: As of Sunday, May 20 - the day after the account's last tweet - @PrezHuddleston has 2,932 followers. For comparison, @UofNH has 1,861, @MarkHuddleston has 1,545, and @tgounley (that's me) has 732.
Q: Will you miss being Fake Prez?
A: Definitely. I'll miss the immediate feedback when I put together a good tweet. I'll miss getting to see the UNH campus through the eyes of a character I created. But I'm not a big fan of people who pretend to be in college after they graduate. I thought it best to go out on top.
Q: Did you ever feel overwhelmed by being Fake Prez?
A: No. Some days I had a lot of ideas, so I tweeted a lot. Some days I had no ideas, so I didn't tweet at all. There was no schedule, no pressure.
Q: Were you surprised that the real President Huddleston was such a good sport?
A: From his personal tweets, I knew he had a self-deprecating sense of humor, so I kind of expected him to go along with it like he did. I'm glad he did; I think he further endeared himself to the student body. I hope he resumes tweeting a little more frequently.
Q: What was your favorite tweet?
A: That is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. I have no idea.
Q: Who else would you like to create a "fake" account for?
A: I don't have any immediate plans for my next fake account, but having succeeded on the local level, I would love to create an account that has national prominence.
Q: Talk about how you used Twitter as the Meat House joggler.
A: I planned a long time ago to run the Boston Marathon on April 16 while juggling, and I knew from "joggling" around the UNH campus early this spring that people tended to tweet about me. As a result, I decided to get a Twitter hashtag temporarily tattooed on my chest, so that spectators could tweet about my progress and turn the race into a social media experiment. I was sponsored by The Meat House, where I was interning at the time, so the hashtag was #MeatHouseJoggler. It managed to create a lot of buzz, which was cool.