I’ve done something completely contrary to my personality and decided to follow a celebrity on Twitter. I never thought I’d do this because I find what most celebrities have to say is meaningless. I’m also skeptical that celebrities actually use Twitter to address their fans. Rather, I had come to believe, based on no information, that either random people pose as celebrities or celebrities hire some poor smuck to handle their online identity. Based on this conjecture, celebrities online are pointless. That said, on a whim, I decided to follow “trent_reznor.” I have no idea whether it’s the real celebrity, but the mix of optimistic idealism and random crankiness fits my perception. My feeling about this so far is 90% of his Tweets are pointless. What attracted me to follow him were his fund raising efforts and rest of it is passing amusement — but then again, I consider Twitter in general to be “passing amusement.” (I, also, have to admit I had it in mind to blog about the experience as I am now).
Today “trent_reznor” left an interesting Tweet: “The price of attempting to engage an online community is high and probably ultimately not worth weeding through the sewage.” With 600,000+ followers on Twitter alone, plus fan forums and whatever other online assets “trent_reznor” owns, I can’t exactly call any of this a means of intimate fan engagement. Imagine if only .2% of his followers per day were brave enough to send replies and personal messages through Twitter, that would mean he gets 1200 little messages a day. That is beyond any human’s capacity to sift through, even if a person had nothing else to do all day but Twitter. This leads me wonder whether there’s any meaning in this. Well, meaning is up to the individual. Replying to a celebrity and hoping the celeb reads your message and gives a crap is pointless. However, you can imagine if a celebrity gets a ton of overwhelmingly positive messages then that can be a source of positive affirmation and inspiration. I see my replies to anyone on Twitter as more of a commentary on the Tweet, rather than trying to actually reach the person. On the other side, for the celebrity, Twitter is what they make of it. It’s merely a tool to send messages out to broad audience that has interest in what the celebrity is up to. I think “trent_reznor” used Twitter well for his charity effort and to give updates about his current tour.
To sum it up, fans and celebrities should not expect Twitter and forums to lead to an intimate relationship between celebrity and fan. Fans need to understand to a celebrity their replies are most likely taken in aggregate to gauge the general feeling towards the celebrity. I hate to put in these terms, but basically fans are willingly giving marketing machines data when they reply to Tweets and participate in forums — and yes, believe it or not, “trent_reznor” has a marketing machine, though he may be loathed to admit it. For the celebrity, Twitter is an excellent way to broadcast to those that genuinely take an interest in the celebrity. In this sense, depending on the saaviness of the celebrity, a lot of good can be done, particularly if Twitter is used to rally support for a cause or to disseminate event information. Beyond, that, celebrities should understand prattling on about their personal life will become fodder for the tabloids, though, I imagine there are plenty of fans who hang on every word that is Tweeted, mainly because they live in some twisted fantasy world … well whatever … I imagine dealing with crackpots is one of the prices of fame ;p.
Food for thought for the marketing end of celebrity-dom: it may not hurt to buy a week from a web programming geek to get a filter and analysis package set up to collect data from fan’s reply Tweets. I think if you get a general sense of the Tweets coming at you, you can send a “personal” reply to big blocks of followers who have Tweeted very similar messages. You can, also, gauge the feelings towards your products — be they music, movies, prose, or whatever … Consolidation of messages into general themes can take out most of the noise and, then perhaps, some gems can be extracted from the “sewage.”
Now Tweet that!