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A Final Q&A With @FauxHolgorsen

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As the year comes to a close, Mountaineer fans bid farewell to not just 2014 but one of our favorite parody Twitter accounts, @FauxHolgorsen. He was nice enough to sit down with us for a Q&A and a 6-er of Red Bull got us a peek behind the curtain at the real wizard running things.

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

There's no shortage of parody accounts on Twitter, but very few of them are done well and even among those, @FauxHolgorsen has always distinguished itself as particularly clever and engaging. We learned last week that the mystery man behind the mic has decided to hang up his keyboard but we couldn't let him go without one last chat.

I'm going to do something a little different here, though. Certainly we'll hear from @FauxHolgorsen in character, but I'm a nerd who's always been a fan of those "how things work" type shows or articles, so I couldn't resist the opportunity to pick the brain of one of the cleverest minds in the Mountaineer Twitterverse and see what goes into the creating of something that has gained nearly 16,000 followers.

(hint - I'm guessing you'll be able to tell pretty quickly when he breaks character)

The Smoking Musket: So we just enjoyed the holiday season. What would you say was your favorite gift that you received this year?

@FauxHolgerson: I got seven $100 Red Bull gift cards, so all of those were my favorite.

TSM: How about your favorite gift that you gave?

@FauxHolgerson:I gave all of my children autographed pictures of myself again, so I think that would probably be my most favorite gift that I gave.

TSM: What's it going to be like seeing Jake (Spavital) across the field wearing opposing colors. This is basically Romeo and Juliet, right? Only if Romeo had a dope skullet and Juliet refused to acknowledge he existed.

@FauxHolgerson: It’ll be emotional. Holding back the tears won’t be easy. But I’ll make it through it. I’ll wink at him occasionally. Maybe throw in a crotch grab here-and-there. He likes when I do that.

TSM: Recently news broke that running backs coach JuJuan Seider had been given a raise to keep him and his recruiting prowess on staff. Any "special" incentives that we don't know about?

@FauxHolgerson: Yes, we did add an incentive that if I accidentally cuss him out after a running back fumbles, he will be given $50 cash.

TSM: People kind of take these parody Twitter accounts for granted but they're surprisingly difficult to do well. This has clearly been one of the more successful accounts out there, so what do you think made it work so well with so many that fail miserably?

@FauxHolgerson: I think a lot of parody accounts try too hard too soon. People think you’re going to get 3,000 followers in one day. But you’re not, especially because most people ignore parody accounts until they’re established. You can’t just flood your timeline with obnoxious tweets. You can’t tweet just for the sake of tweeting. You have to make every tweet count. One average tweet is better than 10 poorly thought out tweets.

Another reason I think this one was successful is that it’s somewhat realistic. If you time your tweets well, and find a way to mimic the actual person’s personality, even in the slightest way, people will catch on. Still to this day, some people swear Dana actually runs this account. You want that.

Timing is a big thing. I follow a lot of WVU media members and fans on my other account. I then use my other account to monitor what people are thinking, and how active they are on Twitter. Usually the most active times people are on Twitter are early morning (9-10am)  and late at night (after 8pm). That’s why if you really kept track of the account, you could usually expect tweets in the morning or late at night. Tweets in the middle of the day were usually unsuccessful, unless something big happened (player arrest, etc.) in the middle of the day. When I saw that a lot of WVU fans were active on Twitter, I’d tweet.

All of this also changed as the account grew. It originally gained followers as we tweeted specific things involving WVU football. After it grew, it reached a plateau. So, you have to adapt and broaden your tweets, making them less specific. For example, your average fan might not know the names of assistant coaches or the backup quarterback. So, tweets involving those types of lesser-known names weren’t successful when it came to growing the account because people didn’t know who or what you were talking about. One of the reasons I think @FauxPelini has taken his account to an entirely different level is that he can talk about not just Nebraska football, but he can connect his account to current events also. He appeals to more people.

This was all like a game to me; like a personal challenge. I’m a guy with a business background, so my thinking always was ‘How can I keep it growing’? What fanbase or market do I appeal to most, and what market could I tap in to, and how? I’ve always said that if I was a marketing professor, I’d make all of my students start a parody account and try to find ways to make it grow. It forces you to learn the subject, create attractive material, and get a feel of what your audience wants and when they’re most susceptible to receiving it.

It’s strange, but 75% of the time, the material I think will be very successful fails, and the material I think is awful does extremely well. I don’t know what that says about me.

TSM: Was there a certain moment when you realized "holy crap, this thing has become really big?"

@FauxHolgerson: Honestly, not really until right up when the retirement was announced. The outpouring from the fans, whether being sad the account was ending or wishing me good luck, was really overwhelming. Quite a few people, including a few players, took the time to send a heart-felt thank you, which I really appreciate. One kid who it appeared just graduated from WVU said the account is one thing he’ll remember most about college, which was really cool.

TSM: Has Jake Spavital ever responded or will your love continue to go unrequited?

@FauxHolgerson: Jake never has responded, but he does follow the account. I’d love for him to respond. Just a goodbye tweet would be pretty comical. I tweeted that I’d keep the account open if Jake tweeted me a picture of him holding an alligator. No response yet.

TSM: Do you have any evidence that the real Dana is aware of the account?

@FauxHolgerson: Someone on the coaching staff who I know is close friends with Dana contacted me Sunday night to say thanks for the laughs. They said the staff, including Dana, appreciated the humor. That was a pretty respectable thing to do, especially since I’m sure they could’ve done without me. I can guarantee that staffs being OK with parody accounts aren’t the norm everywhere. The fact that they were cool with it says a lot about them.

Dana has also mentioned the account on his radio show a couple times. He used to follow the account, but stopped. Probably because I was annoying him.

TSM: You certainly had a unique view to the college football world with the visibility and popularity of the account. Any response from well-known folk stick out in your mind as especially funny or simply surprising?

@FauxHolgerson: I purposely tested a lot of people to see if they’d respond. Most didn’t, probably because they likely get a lot of stupid requests from all kinds of parody accounts. It was like a stupid test to see who I could get to respond. It was funny to see who would react, especially once the national media started recognizing the account. I can’t remember specific individuals without doing some research, but the last "celebrity" was when Desmond Howard tweeted back, along with Mark Schlabach. I really thought Brad Paisley would tweet back, but he didn’t. Quite a few NFL players follow but have never tweeted at me. And then of course, when the players or assistant coaches would tweet back, or even the coach’s families, that was always a lot of fun.

TSM: On a selfish note, @FauxHolgorsen has been a consistent presence in my Mountaineer Retweet......WHAT THE HELL DO I DO NOW?

@FauxHolgerson: In the words of Dana, that sucks man.

TSM: I thought it was very cool in your message last week where you talked about how you always tried to be thoughtful of the folks around the program that you knew followed the account, namely the coach's families. Did they respond much to you? If so, did they seem to be positive about the account?

@FauxHolgerson: I never initiated the contact with the families because they’re just kids. But if they reached out to me, of course I loved chatting with them. They were always very playful with the account. All of Holgorsen’s 3 kids have tweeted back-and-forth, and been pretty creative with it. (RB coach JuJuan) Seider and (WR coach Lonnie) Galloway’s kids follow the account, but have never communicated with it. I’ve also talked to relatives like Bob Huggins’ daughter and (ST coordinator) Joe DeForest’s daughter, who are both older.

As for the adults, Shannon Dawson’s dad follows the account and usually retweets the tweets about his son. I talk with Jake Spavital’s dad occasionally. I get the impression that he’s creeped out about @FauxHolgorsen’s obsession with his son, but he’s always played along with it.

Talking with the families was always a sensitive area with me. As I touched on in the retirement announcement, it’s hard enough being a coach’s kid because your dad is constantly under scrutiny. And if fans know about your social media account, you’re going to feel the brunt of that also. That can’t be easy when you’re a 13-year-old kid. So, that’s why I tried my best to tame down the account as much as possible within the past two years because those coach’s kids started to follow it.

TSM: Ever hit a nerve with folks? Has anyone from WVU's camp ever gotten a little pissy?

@FauxHolgerson: Not that I know about. I don’t think Daron Roberts was a fan of the account, though, which after looking back on some old tweets, I understand why. Not long after he was let go, he sent me a tweet that just said "REVEAL YOURSELF".

After tough losses, fans really took it out on me, which I'm still not sure why. I think I saved @HolgorsenDana at least 400+ complaints after every loss. But as far as WVU is concerned, everyone has been really cool about it from what I hear.

TSM: I saw where you said you'd had several people ask to take over the account. Anyone offered you money? I mean, 15,900 followers has to have some value, right?

@FauxHolgerson: It does have value, right? Nobody has offered me money, but I think I could probably get some money out of it if I tried. I know a few of the people who contacted me wanted to turn it into an account for their business, which is a good idea on their part since it’s built up a market of fans of WVU Athletics.

TSM: So will you actually shut down the account, or leave it up and simply remain inactive?

@FauxHolgerson: It will just stay inactive. There’s been many people request I leave it open just so it can be reviewed occasionally. I’ll probably look back on it now-and-then also.

TSM: Is this a real retirement or just one of those Michael Jordan "99.9% sure" retirements?

@FauxHolgerson: This is a real retirement. I know I’ll miss running the account. In some ways, I already do. But it had to end eventually, and I know now is a good time to end it.

TSM: Any parting words for the Mountaineer faithful?

@FauxHolgerson: Thanks to all those you played along over the years. It really has been a blast to communicate with you guys, even though most of it has been over nonsense. Your imagination to play along with my awkward personality is what has made the account so much fun. To everyone who sent tweets, direct messages or emails, I read all of them and appreciate you taking time out of your day to say goodbye or wish me luck.

Thanks to @FauxHolgorsen for the time and the laughs. Our blue and gold world will be a little less funny without him in it, so we'll all need to step up. He'll be wrapping things up with a tweet on Wednesday, so be sure to stay tuned. I can't imagine a better parting shot than this: