Prior to the emergence of social media mechanisms, such as Facebook and Twitter, the image of a popular culture celebrity as perceived by the general public was fairly limited, as it was encompassed by an obvious bias and straightforward agenda. Long gone are the days where Hollywood stars are forced to publicize their latest television show, film, or product line by simply making the rounds of the daytime and prime-time television circuits or providing interviews to major press outlets. Instead, Twitter, like rising new media platforms, has allowed celebrities to recapture the reigns of all professional – and albeit personal – promotions by placing them directly within a keyboard’s reach. Ultimately, stars with active and monitored online social media accounts are able to market their latest projects and engage in conversation with fans (whether it be one-or-two-sided dialogue), thus changing the game for celebrity branding in terms of reputation and credibility.
Twitter, which currently boasts over 500 million users as of 2012, has ultimately allowed Hollywood’s rising social media mavens to attach the defined image of him or herself to appropriate corporate products under the disguise of the “authentic” private self. For example, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” reality television star and entrepreneur Kim Kardashian is the
queen of self-promotion, and while her extended visibility in the public eye is met with criticism, she continues to rake in millions of dollars a year through not only her E! contract with the scripted series, but also primarily through campaign endorsement deals with global companies. How is that so? Simply put, whether you worship the ground she walks on or loathe her to pieces, it is nearly indisputable to argue that Kardashian is an extremely savvy businesswoman who comprehends the fine-tuned rules of controlling and capitalizing her celebrity brand across various media platforms. When she’s not busy reminding her nearly 16.5 million Twitter followers to watch the latest episode of “KUWTK”, she’s endorsing her Kardashian Collection line of fashionable and affordable apparel or sharing diet, beauty, and healthy lifestyle tips with her fans – all in conjunction with satisfying the terms of her obligations as a celebrity endorser. To say the least, Kim K. is tactful – she utilizes her Twitter feed to not only engage directly with her fans over topics of mutual interest (thereby revealing a “real and relatable” side of herself), but at the same time she regularly appears on paid media outlets as a company spokesperson for those very issues (i.e. her role as a QuickTrim celebrity user).
While some celebrities like Kim Kardashian have been successful in weaving the controlled cross-platform branding, others have found themselves in hot water over their online portrayal and thereby suffering extensive repercussions. For example, acclaimed actor and Academy Award nominee James Franco quit Twitter over corporate pressure caused by some of his eccentric tweets that were deemed too controversial and provocative by companies and studios in which he was aligned. As Mr. Franco noted in an April 2011 Politico article, “My thought was: ‘This is my Twitter [page]. I can do whatever I want.’ But certain companies I work with contacted me about what I was saying”. Later, he returned to Twitter, but only for strict promotion of his professional work.
Franco learned a difficult lesson in celebrity transparency when it boils down to endorsements – that is, the more transparent you are with your audience on Twitter or any other social media platform, the more powerful the connection. Certainly, in the case of the “48 Hours” star, celebrity tweets about a product that he or she is paid to capitalize coupled with the non-filtration of a star’s outspoken personal opinions on unpopular or taboo subjects are ultimately indirectly associated with the product brand. When this occurs, hostility and resentment breeds by fans, leading to nothing more than severe backlash. Clearly, it is evident that is a fine line that exists between the management of a celebrity’s public life with regard to fulfilling contractual promotional duties and a celebrity’s right to showcase his or her private affairs online with viable stakeholders waiting in the wings.
If you’re an active Twitter user, do you follow celebrity accounts? If so, why? Has the presence of celebrities engaged on Twitter influenced your personal connection or perception of them? Have you, or would you, purchase a product or endorse an idea as promoted by a Hollywood star via Twitter?