Q&A | Talking Twitter
Talking Twitter with Alex Ackerman from Apex Legends
Each month, Talking Twitter takes you behind the scenes of some of Twitter’s most interesting accounts with the social media professionals responsible for some of the platform’s standout Tweets and viral moments. This month, we sat down with Alex Ackerman, social media manager for Apex Legends, to talk about how community happens on Twitter and the changing landscape of narrative building on the platform.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What makes @PlayApex worth following on Twitter?
Apex is such an interesting game. There's the gameplay aspect, but the world of Apex is vast and rich with story. I latched on to that for our general social media marketing. I’ve worked with the narrative team over the years to turn our Twitter account into a touchpoint for players where we do additional world-building and holistic storytelling. Things are always happening in the game, but now there’s also stuff happening on our Twitter channels as well. My team is constantly pushing ourselves to figure out how we can meld our social accounts, Twitter in particular, to continue the story of Apex.
Outside of that, I'm a big fan of championing our community, so there's a good chance that you'll find your new favorite fan artist just by following us and seeing a Retweet.
Have you had any viral moments in your tenure on the team? [Spoilers]
In season four, we saw the disappearance of various Hammond scientists play out in real time on our Twitter channels because an unknown assailant at the time was on the run. Then we killed off a character, Jimmy the Forge McCormick, live [on the platform]. We Tweeted reports of the killer, who we of course now affectionately know as Revenant, when he was on the run and info on his movements as they were happening.
At the beginning of every season’s launch or a big story beat, [my team and the narrative team] huddle together to figure out what is first and foremost the story that we want to tell. Then, once we have that figured out, we ask, how is it that we can tell that story? For instance, in season three, we introduced Crypto the Hacker and we did a Twitter Takeover, where Crypto essentially “hacked” into our Twitter account. It was a slow burn and eventually the reveal happened on the platform. I'm fortunate that the narrative team at Respawn are amazing people, and I always feel like I have a seat at the table with them. It's a collaborative effort from the start.
What does it mean to be a social media manager in 2021?
More than anything, being a social media manager in 2022 is nebulous and it's no longer as straightforward as these are my social channels and I have content made for them. Social media has just changed so much over the past two years, let alone the past 10 years, that I think the most important thing about being a social media manager is that you're constantly consuming media and trying things that scare you.
How long have you been in social media, and how has the industry changed since you started out?
I have been in social media in some form for 10 years. My first gig was an internship that ended up being my first corporate job at an advertising agency in Dallas. At that time, social media marketing was so new that I actually split my time doing digital and traditional advertising copywriting; I also made memes (or what we thought were memes). Looking back at some of that work, it's very cringe, but it's like looking at prehistoric drawings when I compare it to what I do now.
The things that brands are doing to engage their communities are unreal. The industry moves so fast and, if you don’t keep up, the content that you're putting out runs the risk of no longer aligning with how folks utilize the different channels, or even being relevant altogether.
One thing, though, that hasn't changed is that we're constantly trying to stop the scroll. One of my creative directors told me that a long time ago and it stuck with me.
Describe your relationship with Twitter.
Anyone who is more visible on social media and works in this space for a living would say that it's a love-hate relationship. But I will say it's probably my favorite platform next to Reddit. [Twitter has] become where we get our news and where we get a vibe check on brands. We're no longer going to their websites, we're going to their social platforms. It's where we get a pulse on what's happening in the world. For my team specifically, I know if something has broken or if something is going right in Apex based on Twitter conversation, almost immediately after launching [a product].
We also share at such a voracious rate nowadays that I see more on Twitter than I would elsewhere. I've had good conversations on Twitter and the conversations you're having are concise due to the character count limit, so you really need to think about what you're saying. The nature of Twitter, in general, as being quick interactions allows me to have different kinds of conversations on the platform than I would elsewhere.
What's the most underrated Twitter feature?
It's the mute button, without a doubt. Blocking someone can cause drama, but when it comes down to it, who you interact with, what you consume, and what you allow in is really up to you. The mute button allows me to set boundaries without the added drama of a screenshot that says “XYZ blocked me” and that becoming a thing.
And if we could grant wishes, with the exception of the edit button, what’s the one feature you’d ask for?
A random dog picture reaction button would be really great. One of the things that the player base across the brands that I've supported all agreed on, was that dogs were the number one thing they loved. The world could just be a better place with more dog photos.
Twitter is all about the conversation. How do you decide what conversations or replies to engage with?
Even just Liking a Tweet has such a profound impact for a player because it's saying, “Hey, I see you. I acknowledge you. I see that you said this thing or I see that you made this thing.” You can't put a dollar amount on how valuable that is.
It's easy to interact with the positive conversations, obviously, but sometimes it's also important to interact with the stickier ones. It's important to ask myself, “do I think this conversation will bring value?” It doesn't have to be two parties who agree on something going into a conversation. Sometimes the two parties are at odds and that can be good because you can glean insight on why the other party has thoughts or feelings that they do and that's an opportunity for growth.
An easy no-go for me is going into a conversation where you know that the person on the other end just has the goal of being hateful or bringing you down. The phrase “don't feed the trolls” rings true no matter what industry you're in.
Throwing friendly shade at other accounts — yay or nay?
Yay (ish) because there is so much nuance to this, especially as a brand. We aren’t afraid to be cheeky, but you see that tactic a lot these days, and it doesn’t always sit right with me.
Including more than one hashtag — yay or nay?
It’s a no, unless legal makes me.
Using emojis to replace words — yay or nay?
I never do that.
How do you prioritize the different functions of your Twitter account?
The most important thing for our team is that we're players first. We always want to make sure that we're championing the player base of our game, so every day I will try to squeeze in a Retweet of fan art. Or, the team will always try to peruse through the comments to see what we can interact with or if there are any conversations bubbling up to the top that we really need to address. Overall, game health is the thing that we consistently are focusing on when we are utilizing Twitter. Whatever you're posting should always add value to your player and, if there happens to be a day where you have nothing to say, that's fine.
Tell us about a Tweet so good, you wish you'd written it.
The one that comes to mind actually helped XBOX to win Best of Tweets Brand Bracket in 2021. XBOX had a content leak and they posted the monkey meme with the side eye. It was just so clever and an interesting marketing opportunity because the internet saw what they saw. XBOX made a split decision: are we going to lean into it or are we going to try and pretend it never happened? They made the right decision in the moment.
What accounts are a must-follow for you right now?
I am actually very into VALORANT right now. In the gaming industry, we all secretly look to each other to learn and see if there are different ways we can serve up information to our players. I love what the VALORANT account is doing and the engagement is wild, so I have to give them kudos.
And NiceWigg is our golden boy right now. It's been really fun to watch him go from this guy who was just really passionate about Apex and work to get to where he is now. I've been fortunate enough to watch that journey and it's really been something special.
Share a Tweet from your drafts folder with us.
I actually do a mass delete of my drafts every month because I have learned my lesson about goofy Tweet mistakes. If it’s a draft, you decided not to Tweet it — probably for a reason.
Go behind the scenes with some of Twitter’s most interesting publishers and the social media professionals responsible for some of the platform’s standout Tweets and viral moments in the Talking Twitter collection.