Social media networking sites have reframed the celebrity and its surrounding culture. In the past, celebrities heavily relied on a management team of publicists and handlers to maintain their celebrity status and negotiate endorsements. Today, celebrities are increasingly taking self promotion into their own hands by using social media networking sites such as Twitter to manage their fan base and careers. But having a ‘celebrity’ status doesn’t guarantee success on Twitter. In fact, knowledge, strategy and mastery of building and maintaining a ‘micro-celebrity’ are essential for a celebrity be successful on Twitter. Although having a celebrity status firmly in place is fundamental, those looking to build a micro-celebrity on Twitter can learn from the strategies and techniques used by celebrities.
The most important strategy used by celebrities on Twitter is micro-celebrity. Micro-celebrity involves developing and maintaining an online fan base. However, a celebrity’s micro-celebrity status differs from other online professionals in that the celebrity has a more elite status of fame as a foundation, which results in greater social and economic gains both online and offline (Page 182). In regards to Twitter, the goal of a celebrity’s micro-celebrity is to increase their visibility and maintain their celebrity status. Celebrities develop and maintain micro-celebrity by continuously managing their fan base on Twitter by using a variety of techniques while at the same time “constructing an image of self that can be consumed by others”, or, in other words, self-branding (Marwick and Boyd 140).
1. Front Stage/Back Stage Negotiation
Celebrities use several techniques to engage with their fan base on Twitter. The most popular technique is the altering between front stage and back stage personas. The front state persona is the public image that is commonly associate with the celebrity, while the backstage persona is associated with the celebrity’s private life. Celebrities cater to fans by tweeting messages, images and links that are related to their front stage persona. But they also continuously engage fans by periodically offering a glimpse into their private, backstage persona. This can be achieved by a celebrity tweeting a message or a photo of a private moment, or by engaging in a conversation with another celebrity (Marwick and Boyd 144-145). Katy Perry is a celebrity that successfully negotiates the juxtaposition between her front stage persona (pop singer), and her backstage persona. For example, Katy Perry tweeted a photo of her nails for her appearance on the MET Gala and also live tweeted during the ball.
2. Hashtags and Retweets
Celebrities also use the lingo of Twitter to engage with their fan base. The most commonly used type of Tweets by celebrities are hashtags, retweets, and @replies. In terms of visibility goals, the hashtag is the most valuable tool for a celebrity (Page 191). Hashtags are commonly used on Twitter to categorize tweets into common subjects in order to make them easier to find, and therefore more visible. Celebrities utilize the hashtag for self promotion of their own products, performances, and affiliations and endorsements ( Page 193). For example, Justin Timberlake makes frequent use of hashtags to promote his music and upcoming tour.
Celebrities also make use of the retweet, but many choose to modify the retweet by adding a personal note that reflects their identity or brand. Celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres will usually retweet a tweet from a fan instead of directly replying, but will also add a personal message. Many celebrities adopt a broadcast approach to Twitter which involves posting a type of “one-to-many tweets” that can be addressed to all fans instead of replying directly, or one-to-one (Page 186). However, while a broadcast approach to fan engagement may be easier to manage by celebrities, they shouldn’t use it strictly to promote publicity, or else they risk losing their fan base. A study in 2010 that involved over 200 celebrity Twitter accounts found that “celebrities that use their Twitter accounts to broadcast publicity information were perceived as being less genuine by followers” (Marwick and Boyd 142). For the purposes of micro-celebrity, it’s important to mix up broadcast messages with more interactive posts in order to engage followers, or the fan base.
B. Self Branding
Celebrities are not longer just about promoting projects within their industry. Today, celebrities are focused on gaining income from self-branding. Celebrities are increasingly using their status to win endorsements and build a reputation as an expert on luxury or fashionable lifestyles, and Twitter is an invaluable tool for the marketing of the celebrity brand. In fact, it’s becoming more common for advertising agencies to broker endorsement deals between celebrities and companies. In fact, some of these agencies go so far as to manage the a celebrity’s presence on Twitter, which can include ghost writing tweets (Ad.ly: The Art of Advertising on Twitter). Even Twitter is entering the celebrity self-branding market and is actively negotiating with celebrities to endorse and market products (Rosman).
While affiliations and endorsements are very lucrative , celebrities need to exercise caution and remember to only accept endorsements that will add to their self-branding and micro-celebrity strategy. The most successfully celebrities are those that maintain their fan-base while also building a reputation as an expert on lifestyle status. Perhaps the most successful self-branded celebrity on Twitter is Gwyneth Paltrow, who uses Twitter to promote her lifestyle brand Goop. Paltrow uses her Twitter to not only create tie-ins to her Goop website and Pinterest, but to also advertise her high end lifestyle, which includes collaborations with the fashion industry, a workout empire, cook books, and affiliations with other famous celebrities such as musicians Beyonce and Jay-Z.
Clearly, the celebrity use of Twitter goes beyond promoting projects within the entertainment industry. A successful micro-celebrity strategy must take into account not only the fan base on Twitter, but also the self-branding of the celebrity. Today, a film or music career will only take a celebrity so far, which is why there has been such a huge increase in celebrities branching out into areas and markets beyond their expertise. Even though the majority of Twitter uses do not have a celebrity foundation to build upon, they can still learn a lot of about how to strategically execute a micro-celebrity campaign on Twitter just by following the techniques and methods used by celebrities.