A Look at How Celebrities Are Using Social Media

Celebrities often manage themselves like brands when it comes to their promotion and marketing. With the advent of social technologies and social media, they now have a new set of impactful tools to participate and engage with their audience.

If you start researching how celebrities use social media and narrow a little on Facebook and Twitter you will see a prominent name in both the platforms: Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) has 45,633,442 Facebook fans and 16,862,231 Twitter followers. She is among the most popular celebrities on social media, but what is interesting is the list of celebrities who use social media, ranging from Barack Obama (@BarackObama) to Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) to Kate Perry (@katyperry). There are celebrities from all aspects of life using social media, and how they use it is different from how non-celebrities use it. Their audience is far more widespread and the statements they make online can lead to both a positive change or result in a defamation lawsuit. One such example has been Courtney Love (@Courtney) who has already been sued a couple of times for her defamatory tweets

Celebrities typically use social media to converse with their fans, or share updates, photographs and videos with them. Along with promoting their latest campaign, or music or movie release, they also promote social causes that they support.ashton_kutcherInteresting Cases

One interesting case in the use of social media is Barack Obama. He was hailed as ‘the first social media president’ and one of the first politicians to leverage social media for political campaigns. His election success and large social media following is a result of his social media strategy. He harnessed his blog, YouTube account, Twitter stream (he has over 11 million followers), and Facebook page (he has over 24 million fans) during the presidential elections. He now uses Twitter and Facebook updates to communicate his views on various topics.

Another interesting celebrity on social media is Ashton Kutcher. He was one of the very early Twitter users when twitter was actually made fun of in late night talk shows. @aplusk was the first celebrity to discover the potential of Twitter as a medium to communicate with fans. He also is considered to be more technically-know-hoe among all celebrities and was one of the very few celebrities who replied to each one of his fans personally. Things here got a little ugly when he tweeted defending Joe Paterno, who was fired in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal. As a result of the criticism he faced, he decided to let his team at Katalyst update his Twitter account. Kutcher is one of the celebrities who has been active on most of the social media platforms right from Twitter and Facebook to Google plus and YouTube.

Promoting Social Causes

Celebrities also use social media to promote social causes to their audience. In this case the pre-requisite is that celebrities should be passionate about the cause. One campaign that attracted the support of many social media heavyweights such as Lady Gaga, Justein Beiber (@justinbieber) and Britney Spears (@britneyspears) was the ‘I am gonna be your friendcampaign. The campaign was about saving the starving children in Eastern Africa. Bob Marley’s video was the main face of the campaign. The movement was supported heavily on Facebook and Twitter by all celebrities. Other campaigns are backed by just one celebrity. Two examples are:

- Lady Gaga established a partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation to spread awareness about the homeless in New York and donate $1 million via a crowd-sourced charity contest.

- Justin Beiber partnered with Pencils of Promise to launch Schools4All to provide education to millions of children around the world.

Whether for collaborative or individual campaigns, celebrities provide charities and NGOs a vast reach that they cannot otherwise achieve on their own, resulting in more help, support and donations from the public.

But how successful are these campaigns? We see that the most successful of the campaigns were the ones where the celebrities were passionate about the cause. When the celebrities are not passionate about the cause and do it just for the money, then the cause does not fare well.

Movies and music

Social media is used to promote all types of movies. Movies invariably have an official website, official Facebook page, Twitter handle, and of course a hashtag to promote the film and make sure fans are involved in all the discussions revolving around the movie. The recent release of the Indian film Ra.One, one of the most expensive Bollywood films ever made, was promoted fiercely on Facebook/Twitter/Google+). A new marketing initiative for Ra.One, made possible by Google+, was a hangout for fans with Shah Rukh Khan.

Social media has opened a vast gateway for music lovers and music bands. If you look at the top celebrity list in social media you will see the top spots are ruled by singers. Social media has also catapulted some to stardom – Justin Beiber became known through his first YouTube video and Rebeca Black became famous for her Friday Night YouTube video.

Social media has enabled well-known bands to control more of their music and content than previously. It works well for bands that already have a following, such as the Cranberries who can give away their latest song for free on facebook, or Maroon 5, who released their latest video of “Moves Like a Jagger Video” with Victoria’s Secret models lip syncing on YouTube. The initial trailblazers in controlling the release of material were Radiohead. Their album “In the Rainbow” was released initially only on their website for download and people could pay as much or as little as they wanted for it.

Social media also gives smaller bands a far larger potential audience than they would have had. Apart from communicating and sharing videos through Facebook and Twitter they can also upload their songs to platforms like soundcloud. Here people can instantaneously upload sounds and songs. There is also the MyBand application on Facebook, which has proved popular. Another recently launched, music-orientated social network has been turntable.fm. The main objective is to go beyond the Facebook and Twitter format of direct interaction, providing an experience similar to the “AOL chatrooms concept”.

Social media has expanded the marketing potential for celebrities and their movies, music or social causes. This can be on popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter or social networks built around specific interests. However, with the need to reach as many people as possible, it is unlikely that celebrities will gravitate to social networks focused on a shared interest, like turntable.fm. What is more likely is that celebrities will continue to populate the platform where most of their fans already are, or look to bring fans to their own websites where they can form a whole new concept of social interaction.

[This is a guest post by Aram Bhusal, who works as a software developer at Kuliza. You can read more of his articles at ZaGarage.]