Culture

The enduring mystery of @ShinobiNinja

A conversation with Shinobi Ninja’s Duke Sims about why the band uses Twitter in the weird way it does.

Culture

Culture

The enduring mystery of @ShinobiNinja

A conversation with Shinobi Ninja’s Duke Sims about why the band uses Twitter in the weird way it does.

Have you ever been followed on Twitter by Brooklyn DIY rock band Shinobi Ninja? Have you ever been unfollowed by the account and then followed again? Has this series of events happened to you more than once? More than twice? Over and over again since 2009? If so, you’re not alone.

With over 587,000 followers (and 578,000 followed accounts), the band’s mercurial social media habits have made it so that thousands of Twitter users, even if they have never heard its music, know the name Shinobi Ninja from… somewhere. Aside from steadily increasing its number of followers, the band uses its Twitter to post photos from recent performances, retweet shoutouts from fans, and broadcast vaguely positive maxims like “Respect and love. Music 4 life.”

But it’s Shinobi Ninja’s love of the dual-function follow button, not its music, that has the band ever so lightly on people’s radar. The Outline spoke to lead singer and guitarist Duke Sims about the band’s social media habits and what he thinks about its lowkey legendary Twitter status. But our discussion proved to be just as confusing as @ShinobiNinja’s social media strategy.

Evolve

Have you ever heard of people being followed and unfollowed by the account?

Yeah, definitely. It’s just social media. We don’t take it too seriously or too personally. It’s not like we’re ringing a bell and delivering you cookies and running away or something.

Do you know why the following and unfollowing happens?

That’s a good question. I’m not sure. Social media, it’s just a game of reaching people. It’s like anything in life. It’s just angles, how you reach those angles.

What is the band’s social media strategy or approach to Twitter?

For social media just in general it’s just to reach people and grow our band, because we’re a DIY band. We’re not signed to a label and we don’t have some huge bank account. So you gotta kind of make things up and use your resources. And Twitter, or social media in general, is just a great resource to reach people all over the world. So if you have a dream and you have aspirations, you have to just do your best to reach those things while staying humble. But that’s just how you have to do it in life. You have to make it happen or else it’s not going to, and that’s not any fun.

“It’s just social media... It’s not like we’re ringing a bell and delivering you cookies and running away or something.”

Do you guys use a bot or something to follow people on Twitter from your account?

No. I guess if you had like a label or something for a band like Twenty One Pilots or something, those dudes are not going to be using their Twitter account. But there’s six of us, so that’s 12 hands. I don’t know if you remember, they used to send you things in the mail saying like “You’ve won a million dollars.” And my grandmother used to get super hyped up about this. Well, they sent that to everybody and everybody got hyped up about it. And at the end of the day, you have to market yourself and promote yourself. If nobody else is doing it for you then you’re either going to do it yourself or you’re just going to say what if and just have wishes and dreams and get older and be like, ‘Oh man, that sucks.’ But that’s not anything I really want any part of is what ifs.

So how do you all decide who you will follow and unfollow?

I don’t know if it’s as serious as it is like who we’re gonna follow, who we’re gonna unfollow. Twitter has parameters and you have to live within those parameters, just like The Matrix. When they were in the Matrix, they weren’t truly in the real world. It was something that the computers designed. Twitter is something that somebody designed and you have to live within the parameters of that. That’s always important to understand.

Duke Sims performs with Shinobi Ninja in 2012. The band has gained notoriety on Twitter for repeatedly following and unfollowing other users.

Duke Sims performs with Shinobi Ninja in 2012. The band has gained notoriety on Twitter for repeatedly following and unfollowing other users.

I found some tweets of people saying “Shinobi Ninja’s street team should unionize for the greater good” and “Shinobi Ninja follower bot, the ‘Dan Smith will teach you guitar’ of Twitter schemes.” What do you think of this kind of infamy that Shinobi Ninja has reached on Twitter for following and unfollowing people?

In New York Dan Smith is a legend as far as his promotion and marketing. He’s just the best that there ever was. And anything in life, if anybody compares you to the best that there ever was, that’s like playing basketball and being compared to Michael Jordan. And it’s not negative, because it’s people actually saying, ‘Look you’re actually doing your diligence.’ It’s a good thing that people notice you, that you’re working hard towards something. Because the opposite of working hard is not working.

Do you guys have an inspiration or someone you look up to as a marketing hero or example for you?

When I was growing up, Marc Ecko used to be friends with my friend’s dad, and he used to give us stickers of the red rhinoceros, and we used to sticker these red rhinoceros stickers everywhere, man. And I remember just doing that when I was really little and then just getting older and seeing him become super famous and still seeing that red rhinoceros sticker that we had stuck up on poles and being like, ‘You know what, there’s something to this.’ And it’s all about just doing the best you can to get all the people to your shows and being as bright as possible. Always finding ways to be original and be different and stand out.

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