Monday, May 21, 2012


Fake Prez Huddleston

President Mark Huddleston revealed social media "fake Prez Huddleston," graduating senior Tom Gounley, at the Alumni Association's Last Hurrah Lobster Bake at Boulder Field on Friday.

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.

Mike Ross | Communications and Public Affairs