Twitter: The making or breaking of the celebrity brand?by Miriam Eastwood
Unless you have been living in a dark room with no access to any type of media, social networks or office gossip you’ll probably be aware of the recent super injunction scandal concerning a certain footballer’s indiscretions.
In early April, a story about serial WAG, Imogen Thomas’ six-month affair with a footballer famous for his ‘family-man’ image was leaked via Twitter. Ordinarily a story about yet another footballer having yet another affair with a glamour model would barely raise an eyebrow, so why did this one cause such a stir?
Because the footballer in question had a taken out a super injunction – the highest level of legal gagging order – to ensure Ms Thomas kept her mouth shut and his identity was kept well and truly out of the public domain. This led to a bizarre situation where the national press were legally prohibited from printing the player’s name but social media networks buzzed with speculation. Within days a Twitter user had revealed all: the mystery man was none other than ‘squeaky-clean’ Manchester United star, Ryan Giggs.
Up until recently, celebrities could and did keep a whole host of soap story affairs, misdemeanours and double lives completely under wraps to ensure their precious reputations remained intact. Now we live in a world where tweets can be retweeted in seconds, information spreads like wild fire and super injunctions aren’t so super. So is Twitter becoming public enemy number one for celebrity culture?
To Tweet or not to Tweet
Twitter, launched in 2006, is now estimated to have 200 million users worldwide generating 65 million tweets a day. Its power to enhance and promote the celebrity brand is undeniable and its reach has been exploited by actors, singers and sportstars alike. Ashton Kutcher for example, has over 6 million followers and was arguably one of the first celebrity tweeters to boost their careers using the social networking site.
Kutcher’s clever and humorous tweets gained instant popularity and by April 2009 he’d attracted over one million Twitter followers, more than news giant CNN. To mark the occasion, he made this statement, “We can and will create our media. We can and will broadcast our media. We can and will censor our own media ourselves. We are over a million.” Pretentious as it might sound, it embodies the celebrity view of Twitter. It’s seen by many as a platform to fight against negative press and elaborated exposés, and a vehicle to shape their brand output and gain some control in the uncontrollable world of tabloid gossip.
There are obvious financial benefits to proving your popularity. Kutcher has recently landed a lucrative role filling Charlie Sheen’s shoes in 2 And A Half Men. Although this hasn’t been directly attributed to his Twitter popularity, it can’t have harmed it. Christy Tanner, the general manager and executive vice president of TV Guide Digital pointed out that “this could be a great opportunity to see what can move the needle with social media and its impact on engagement and ratings.”
So, getting closer to your favourite celebs via Twitter can foster a new found admiration amongst followers – just look at Ashton Kutcher – let’s be honest, can any of us name one of his films? Plus, for the celeb it serves the purpose of projecting your popularity to the entertainment world. So surely Twitter is a must-have for any celebrity wanting to expand their brand?
Well, yes, but only if you’re good at it. Take Lady Gaga for example, Twitter’s no.1 celebrity tweeter. She has made manipulating Twitter into an art form, using it to rally her army of little monsters, releasing exclusive tidbits, promoting her band, tours and herself to perfection. However other famous faces have had far less success…
When tweets go bad
Bad tweeting can leave you with angry fans, negative comments and a damaged image. Celebs like 50 Cent and Britney Spears have been slammed for not writing their own tweets, opting instead to tweet generic, impersonal, self-promotion written by their publicist.
An equally unforgivable social media crime is a boring tweeter. George Michael’s endless retweeting and lack of replies to his followers has put him on the Twitter naughty list. And then there is the flash-in-the-pan tweeter, celebs who barely open an account before removing themselves. Darren Gibson found the fan abuse and negative comments were so brutal he was off the social network within hours of his first tweet.
So is a Twitter account crucial for a successful 21st century celebrity brand? Maybe. Of course there are plenty of celebrities that survive in the cut-throat world of showbiz without one. However, when managed well Twitter provides you with an instant connection to fans, a way of manipulating your output, and to some extent, controlling your public persona. For example, Wayne Rooney recently beat the tabloids to their hair transplant headlines by tweeting about it first.
Twitter has the potential to propel its tweeters from zero to hero, but only if your output is witty, interesting and worth reading. It is vital that celebrity tweets are relevant, personal and genuine. It a medium that has the capacity to enhance celebrity brands but not create them, the interest needs to exist already.
And like any digital medium, Twitter can easily get out of hand. Although you can control what you say, you can’t control what others tweet and retweet. Twitter has no censorship or monitoring, so uncapped rumors can become gospel and the notion of innocent until proven guilty is out of the window… Just ask Ryan Giggs.