Meet the unreal Dimitar Berbatov
In this month's FourFourTwo we interview five of the finest fakes on Twitter, from Berbatov to Blatter. This week on FourFourTwo.com we'll bring you the full interviews Ã¢ÂÂ starting with everyone's favourite languid Bulgarian, Dimitar Berbatov, as created by designers Adam Bright (27) and Joe Burke (25)...
Q: When did you decide to make the account and how did it come about?
Adam: We thought the Phil Brown Twitter account was brilliant when we first read it, and then towards the end it was just him swearingÃ¢ÂÂ¦ So we thought "ItÃ¢ÂÂs a good idea, why donÃ¢ÂÂt we do one?" Also, weÃ¢ÂÂre both United fans, we both like Berbatov, and we both thought heÃ¢ÂÂs so easy to satirise.
Joe: HeÃ¢ÂÂs never in the press or getting things wrong.
Adam: So we just thought weÃ¢ÂÂd do a silly one. It was the Phil Brown one that inspired us initially.
Q: It was always going to be Berbatov? There werenÃ¢ÂÂt any other temptations?
Adam: It was so off the cuff. One of us just went "LetÃ¢ÂÂs do it," the other said "Alright then" and we just did it. We got our Head of Innovation, whoÃ¢ÂÂs really prolific on Twitter, to repost it, and a friend of mine who's also really big in social media planning reposted it. We got a couple of hundred [followers] straight away.
Q: So it kick-started quickly...
Adam: To be honest we only wanted to see if we could get a thousand. It was more like an experiment and then it just snowballed really. I think when it first really kicked on was when The Sun or The Mirror did a Top 10 and it just kicked off. Now weÃ¢ÂÂre on nearly 40,000 and as soon as you tweet thereÃ¢ÂÂs so many retweets.
Q: You could say youÃ¢ÂÂre comedians; is there a kind of stage fright?
Adam: Recently we havenÃ¢ÂÂt tweeted as much because itÃ¢ÂÂs getting a lot harder as we go on. I think weÃ¢ÂÂve set quite a good standard of what the tweets are like and I think they are quite good, and we canÃ¢ÂÂt really go back on that. We use all brands which fit in with Berbatov: what car would he drive?
Joe: My favourite thing about him is that heÃ¢ÂÂll never ever, ever talk about football.
Q: How many people do you get thinking youÃ¢ÂÂre real?
Joe: About 50%.
Adam: I think more than that. I think most people donÃ¢ÂÂt really get Twitter, so they just assume and think everyone is official.
Joe: They start worshipping for a while and you see the tweets begging for a retweet and then the next day theyÃ¢ÂÂre "I found out youÃ¢ÂÂre a fake". They get really annoyed.
Adam: Loads of them are foreign, so I think thatÃ¢ÂÂs how it gets lost in translation.
Q: Had any requests from people who think you're real?
Adam: We get the odd one but itÃ¢ÂÂs mainly retweets. We donÃ¢ÂÂt really read many of the retweets, we donÃ¢ÂÂt really get time, we just see how many retweets it gets. We love following how many followers there are though. When it was getting to 30,000 we sacked off half a day trying to get retweets and people to follow us.
Joe: You can look at the start when youÃ¢ÂÂve got like 500 followers to see who was actually following you, which is quite interesting because there were people like Will Carling and there were a load of cricketers as well. They were loving it.
Q: Have you had any complaints? Unlike most fake Twitter accounts, you don't have a disclaimerÃ¢ÂÂ¦
Adam: Our MD tried to play a prank on us; he pretended there was a letter from Man United threatening legal action, but we rumbled him quite quickly. And no, we havenÃ¢ÂÂt had anything apart from that.
Joe: Ferguson was talking about us, saying about how no Man United players were Twitter.
Adam: Literally the day after we got put in The Sun, a Man United press release said their players do not use social media. I think they donÃ¢ÂÂt mind now, but at the time they were pretty much "No oneÃ¢ÂÂs allowed to use it".
Q: ItÃ¢ÂÂs interesting that Twitter havenÃ¢ÂÂt been in touch.
Adam: The first thing we did was to say we donÃ¢ÂÂt want it to be slanderous. It's just a really obvious satire and not really about football. Even if Berbatov saw it and read it weÃ¢ÂÂd hope heÃ¢ÂÂd find it quite funny and obviously a joke. And if anyone does believe itÃ¢ÂÂs real, itÃ¢ÂÂs a bit silly.
Q: What do you think heÃ¢ÂÂd make of it?
Joe: I donÃ¢ÂÂt know because I donÃ¢ÂÂt know anything about Dimitar Berbatov.
Adam: WeÃ¢ÂÂve seen these pictures of him but then IÃ¢ÂÂve seen other ones and IÃ¢ÂÂm thinking he looks a bit like a chav. I think heÃ¢ÂÂs actually a bit of a Bulgarian chav.
Joe: The only bit of his character IÃ¢ÂÂve ever seen is when he did the Godfather impression and he seemed a bit timid at the time. I honestly do, even though IÃ¢ÂÂm a big Man United fan, we both are, I canÃ¢ÂÂt remember an interview with him.
Joe: In all of them heÃ¢ÂÂs an enigma, isnÃ¢ÂÂt he?
Q: If lots of people think it's real, you're kind of raising his profile...
Adam: WeÃ¢ÂÂve had a few people in pubs tell us about Berbatov on Twitter, and weÃ¢ÂÂre like "ThatÃ¢ÂÂs us!".
Q: What makes a successful parody account? Are there rules youÃ¢ÂÂve got to follow?
Joe: DonÃ¢ÂÂt oversaturate it. DonÃ¢ÂÂt over-tweet. We created our tweets quite nicely and we didnÃ¢ÂÂt flood it too much.
Adam: ThereÃ¢ÂÂs a few people we follow who you donÃ¢ÂÂt bother reading most of the stuff Ã¢ÂÂ you stream through it all. But then thereÃ¢ÂÂs one or two people that you will just look at it, whatever it is, because itÃ¢ÂÂs always something quite good. Hopefully we want to be quite a good tweet. It was one every other day but now we do it like two a week because weÃ¢ÂÂre quite busy at the moment. We also try and link it with whatÃ¢ÂÂs going on as well and whenever the season ends he always goes away for a month or two because we always heÃ¢ÂÂs say going yachting. For the royal wedding, it was the Chelsea game that weekend he tweeted "Oh good, IÃ¢ÂÂm in London for the royal wedding".
Q: Are there any that you think donÃ¢ÂÂt get it right?
Adam: Most of them, the majority. Some of them donÃ¢ÂÂt work: all they do is tweet loads, and they just mention other footballers. Even the Phil Brown oneÃ¢ÂÂ¦ itÃ¢ÂÂs funny to think that Phil Brown swears all the time and he's always in a dressing gown or something like that, thatÃ¢ÂÂs funny, but that's as far is it went really.
Q: Would you ever consider doing another one?
Joe: The only other one we put any thought into was a grumpy teenager in our office who never spoke Ã¢ÂÂ but that would obviously only be funny in our office.
Adam: There are so many fake football Twitters, I donÃ¢ÂÂt know if you could just start over again: if you took any popular player, thereÃ¢ÂÂd probably be a fake one already. IÃ¢ÂÂd quite like to do another one like [Masterchef judge] John Torode or somebody like that Ã¢ÂÂ just someone whoÃ¢ÂÂs a weird character with some underlying clashes.
Q: Which fake Twitter accounts do you really like?
Joe: Big Sam.
Adam: IÃ¢ÂÂve only really seen a few of them but I honestly donÃ¢ÂÂt think any are as good as ours. Joe: Someone referenced Big Sam and Berbatov the other day when they were talking to their friend about starting one up. And he was like, Ã¢ÂÂWho shall I choose?Ã¢ÂÂ He picked Demba Ba. I mean, why? I think El-Hadji Diouf would be funny to read, a total a**hole.
Adam: You canÃ¢ÂÂt take someone whoÃ¢ÂÂs too popular or famous. I think Berbatov worked because heÃ¢ÂÂs at a massive club and was a big transfer but heÃ¢ÂÂs not a massive character and isnÃ¢ÂÂt in the press a lot, so I think people are kind of interested. I think itÃ¢ÂÂs quite seductive and people really buy into it. I think it needs to be someone whoÃ¢ÂÂs not too prolific. Like a Rio Ferdinand one I donÃ¢ÂÂt think would work Ã¢ÂÂ heÃ¢ÂÂs a bit of a plonker anyway.
Q: How important is it do you think to strike that balance between absurdity and realism? Do you think people have to think that really could be him or could you to an extent write anything and people think itÃ¢ÂÂs funny because itÃ¢ÂÂs Berbatov saying it?
Adam: I donÃ¢ÂÂt think weÃ¢ÂÂve ever really gone for realism at all. WeÃ¢ÂÂve always gone for it being slightly plausible. We think about maintaining the character, we donÃ¢ÂÂt really care if people think itÃ¢ÂÂs not real. We more want people to think itÃ¢ÂÂs a funny Twitter account.
Q: Do you feel a responsibility to do it often?
Adam: We were forcing ourselves to do it every other day because we had so many followers but I think now itÃ¢ÂÂs just when the opportunity presents itself or when something pops into our heads. ItÃ¢ÂÂs getting hard to make it funny.
Q: So what does the future hold?
Adam: I think itÃ¢ÂÂd have to be right to continue it. Plus whatever is right for the satire, stick to that: we donÃ¢ÂÂt want something that doesnÃ¢ÂÂt really feel right when you think up something. It takes up your time and there's all the pressure of making it funny. I think if he went to Tottenham or somewhere like that, I donÃ¢ÂÂt think weÃ¢ÂÂd bother to be honest.
Joe: IÃ¢ÂÂd love it if he went to Paris and heÃ¢ÂÂd literally drop all his English heritage and start again.
Q: Start wearing a beret and cycling round?
Adam: Yeah! "This is what IÃ¢ÂÂve always dreamed of. I hate EnglandÃ¢ÂÂ¦"