Conan O'Brien's Twitter Feed Is Serious Business

Last Updated Feb 26, 2010 4:42 PM EST

Two days ago, out of the ether, came this tweet:

Today I interviewed a squirrel in my backyard and then threw to commercial. Somebody help me.

The tweet wasn't from a latter-day Rupert Pupkin who has spent way too many hours fantasizing about being a talk-show host, but from the currently-in-limbo Conan O'Brien. Several tweets later, he has more than 375,000 followers.

At the risk of reading way too much into it, O'Brien's timing -- just as nemesis Jay Leno and David Letterman resume their longstanding late-night war -- is just right. It's a subtle way of reminding the entertainment world that he hasn't gone away -- he's just talking to squirrels in his spare time while he constructs his post-"Tonight Show" career. The trick for O'Brien now is not only to perfect tweet humor, but also to use social media as a platform for his inevitable return to the airwaves, just as the legions of #teamconan fans used it to defend him during the "Tonight Show" imbroglio. From what I can tell, there's no real prohibition on this in his $45 million buyout deal from NBC. That deal, according to The Wrap, stipulated that he's free to go on air again in September, but he also agreed to a limited time blackout concerning interviews on other talk shows.

That, of course, still leaves a broad swath of digital media channels on which to maintain and grow his fan base. Next steps? How about an O'Brien blog, and/or the O'Brien YouTube channel, structured around the persona he seems to have built in the last few days -- of an unemployed talk show host, roaming around his house (sometimes naked) and slowly going insane. This will not only keep him busy, but keep him in the loop with his many fans, and serve as a springboard and ongoing platform for his new show, when, and where it happens.

In the waning days of the Leno vs. O'Brien donnybrook, when it became obvious how committed his fans were to social media, I criticized O'Brien, and his show, for not playing the social media card more heavily throughout his short time at the helm of "Tonight." Maybe O'Brien has now learned a thing or two. His audience, once beholden to the airwaves, now has transcended them, so he'd better too.

Previous coverage of Conan O'Brien at BNET Media: