by: Matt Rhodes
We like to see behind the scenes. We like to take the singer, actor, dancer or TV star and turn them into a three-dimensional character. We like to see them when they’re not performing for us - see what they’re really like, where they live, what they do. We want to know them as human beings, as well as knowing them for whatever it is they are famous for.
So celebrity gossip is big business - magazine and newspaper editors and paparazzi photographers both know that they can make money by showing part of a celebrity’s private life. By getting that photo that really lets us inside their life, or getting that piece of information that lets us know more about them. But there’s a real threat to this business. Celebrities are starting to retake control of their brand and image. And they’re doing it with Twitter.
There’s been lots of talk about celebrities on Twitter, and it’s certainly true that they are not all on Twitter for the same reasons. But some are using Twitter very cleverly. They are using it themselves, posting updates and photos, letting people know what they are doing and where they are. And people follow them because people are genuinely interested in this. For the same reasons celebrity gossip in newspapers and magazines is so popular, gossip that is started and spread by the celebrity themselves is also interesting. In fact, it is probably even more so.
Let’s compare two stories:
- A newspaper has photos of a couple of TV celebrities arriving at another’s house one evening and speculates about what was going on, what happened once they went inside and the exact extent of their relationship
- A celebrity says on Twitter that two friends (also celebrities) are coming round to dinner. Tells you what he’s cooking and then takes a picture of the three of them inside his house and posts that on Twitter too
Which is of more interest? Undoubtedly the latter. Why? Because there is something that celebrities have that newspaper editors and paparazzi don’t have - unrestricted access. If you are a celebrity you are able to take photos inside your house (which usually isn’t possible) say what you’re cooking for dinner, where you are off to, who you met the previous night, what you think of them. You can take photos and show them to the world -whether it’s of inside your house, you on holiday or just you stuck in lift (as happened to @stephenfry earlier this year). You have unrivalled access to yourself. And this is really powerful.
So Twitter lets celebrities take control of their own personal brand. Rather than having to rely on a fuzzy photo or a story from ’sources’, we can now see what celebrities are really doing, from the celebrity themselves. This is of much greater interest. We can really see inside their lives rather than living it vicariously through gossip and third-parties. They can flood the market with so much direct access and information that there really is no need for paparazzi and gossip columns.
Of course, this offers a significant benefit to the celebrities themselves. They can share a lot. But they can also choose what they share. They can take control.
Twitter is hugely powerful for letting us see inside people’s lives, what they are doing and who they are doing it with. For celebrities and celebrity brands this has a powerful force.
Some more reading
- Update: Celebrities (Still) Love Twitter (takepart.com)
- The 14 Types of Twitter Personalities (mediacaffeine.com)
- Twitter: The Celebrity Edition (centernetworks.com)
- Stephen Fry on the joys of that microblogging service which saved him from bats (thenextweb.com)
- Are the Obamas Bad for the Paparazzi Economy? (freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com)