Celebrity Takeover – Optimists vs Detractors

For those immersed in Twitter, there’s usually a weekly hot topic that has the community abuzz and last week was no different. Ashton Kutcher threw down a challenge to CNN to see who can hit 1 million followers first. This seemed to not only be the crowning moment for Ashton, as he won the ‘race’, but for Twitter and it’s increased mainstream popularity.

The following day, Ashton was on the Oprah show (via Skype) and talked Twitter, along with guest Evan Williams (Twitter CEO). That episode, along with Oprah‘s joining and promotion of Twitter, has skyrocketed Twitter’s name. It may seem like a great time to be on Twitter but there has definitely been mixed emotions about this mainstream recognition.

Ultimately, I see people on two sides of this debate – the Optimists and the Detractors.

The Optimists feel that this increase in popularity, though may be saturating our fun little niche platform, will only benefit those of us who are utilizing Twitter for social media strategy and helping businesses learn more about and connect with their community. Those that have been at the forefront, not for our pseudo celebrity status that many have been accustomed to, but for the hard work put into this platform and the subsequent results (other than number of followers) shown.

On the flip, the Detractors find this sudden spurt of fame (or infamy) as a possible downfall of Twitter as the medium is now going to be filled with celebrities who don’t “get” social media and feel this new breed will somehow be seen as the “experts” in social media. Twitter has all of a sudden hit a “tipping point” in many eyes, as they fear the change that is happening.

I understand what was once our special platform that only tech geeks and social media heads knew about, has now grown (and continues to do so) into a large playground where many people enjoy dabbling in. But how can we responsibly say that this platform is doomed? Why jump the gun and immediately shun the notion of celebrities joining and mainstreaming Twitter. Even better, why should they have to “get” social media? I’d go out on a limb and say that a huge majority of Ashton’s community has no idea what social media is and probably don’t care.

So, here’s the optimist in me. Do YOU. Meaning, do what you have always done, do what’s been working. Continue to push the boundaries and test strategies within social media, for your business and for your clients. Sure, things might change a bit and mainstream media might infiltrate even more, but shouldn’t that make us want to work even harder to show companies our value, that we get it, and that we’re the ones who will still continue to bring in results?

Sure most celebrities will broadcast their messages, but who cares? They’re in a much larger bubble compared to ours. Their bubble isn’t as scalable as ours is and their use is always going to be different than our use.

Either people really hate change or our egos are taking a hit because we’re no longer the big dogs of Twitter – whatever the reason, why do we fear mainstream media? I don’t think Ashton or Oprah are going to form the next social media agency and take all our clients, or better yet, trivialize Twitter – do you?

16 comments On Celebrity Takeover – Optimists vs Detractors

  • Agreed Sonny. After watching all this unfold last week, I gotta say, I could quite honestly not give two cents that Oprah is on Twitter. Does it impact my niche community? My network of like-minded professionals and social media/music/travel/photography buffs that enjoy sharing tips and chatting about our areas of common interest? Not one bit. Do I recognize the potential impact of an Ashton or Oprah tweet touting support for an issue as a call to action or pushing one product over another? Absolutely, but for now, it’s not changing the way I use Twitter in the least. As you say, keep doing what you’re doing for you and your clients. You can spend a lifetime trying to crack celebrity influence to no avail and is that really worth your time compared to connecting and energizing your real base of brand evangelists to grow a strong base of authentic outreach?

  • Sonny – timely post! As you and I talked via Twitter, if Oprah or Ashton have any impact on the Twitter experience it will be more on a macro level and less on individual accounts. That’s the best part about Twitter – I can opt in (or in the case of Oprah and Ashton – opt out) to receive the “flow” from a person with like interests. If the person doesn’t have like interests than I am not likely to follow them.

    The impact Oprah and Ashton may have is moving Twitter more toward the mainstream (as if it wasn’t going there already). That, and a few more sightings of the “whale.” 🙂

  • I think you’d have to be on the optimist side on this. Though what I wonder is, with this explosive growth, will Twitter become unmanageable from a user perspective? At what point might Twitter become something more trouble than it is worth?

  • Sonny, definitely a lot to think about here- thanks for bringing these points to the conversation. (Every time someone says “conversation,” a social media expert gets their wings. ;)) I’m definitely on the optimist side of the coin. What puzzles me about the reaction is the underlying suggestions or assumptions about Twitter:

    *It is not just social media, it’s a tool in service of social media.
    I think it is what it is and how people use it is up to them. As long as I’m within the TOS, my use isn’t any better or worse than anyone else’s. Like you said, the overwhelming majority of users don’t care. They don’t use Twitter because they care about social media any more than they use a phone because they care about telecommunications.

    *It is only for people who “get it.”
    Who defines that? Twitter defines itself as a microblogging service as far as I can tell. I feel like some are adding in their interpretation based on their use (and how they think companies should use it), and that’s fine. For *them.* My advice those redefining it is to not upset when others don’t go along with or even care about those definitions.

    (You said something on Twitter last night that I thought was especially on point – even if celebrities don’t “get it” – “shouldn’t they be allowed to make mistakes like we all did?”)

    *More people joining means certain doom.
    Again, as far as I can tell, we all still have the ability to control who we interact with, and whose “friendship” we seek. My only concern with regard to user experience is site downtime or slowness. Can Twitter keep pace with the usage demands?

    I have to add that I think your advice to “Do YOU” is superb and applicable in virtually any situation, not just this. YOU are all you can control.

  • Good post Sonny and way to provide perspective. Here’s what I’ve been thinking. Are these detractors the same group who have crushed traditional media day in and day out about its inability to harness the power of social media and bring it to the people? The same people who go on and on about how media organizations need to embrace social media and how those who don’t “get” it are pretty much lame?
    Perhaps the mainstream media was and still is a little leary of change. Sounds familiar?Angela | @communitygirl

  • @Scott – Exactly. We’re not naive in going on about our business while all this celebrity hoopla goes on, but so long we understand there’s a much larger picture to focus on before our energy is exerted on a topic that will honestly probably simmer down within a week.

    @Chuck – You made a great point on Twitter when you first said that. The impact being on the platform (which I understand can be adversely effected as far as downtime)…but individually, our communities are intact.

    @mmusa – How’d you guess =) Now from a macro perspective, Twitter will probably become a lot harder to maintain and stabilize, but from a user’s perspective, I don’t think our management will change – it’s all in how we use it and who we wish to connect with.

  • @Tara – You make a great point that I failed to mention. Mistakes. We’ve all made them and we all continue to do so, along with companies. We were quick to judge Skittles and their little splash into SM, but I remember David Armano having a post on how brands and individuals are going to make mistakes in this changing space. ‘Learn by doing. Get over it.’

    http://darmano.typepad.com/logic_emotion/2009/03/brands-will-learn-by-doing-get-used-to-it-.html

    Amen.

    @Angela – You make some great points on the scope of these detractors and their snap judgments on not only mainstream media, but traditional, and even those individuals and organizations that apparently didn’t initially ‘get it’ to their degree of understanding of SM. Everyone can’t be geeks and be in the trenches in this medium. Trial and Error wasn’t looked down upon that much in the past, was it?

    Thanks to everyone for their great comments and thoughts!

  • Amen Sonny! You took the words right out of my mouth. And, for those who don’t like celebs online- don’t follow them. You don’t have to and isn’t that the beauty of social media- finding your community? Not finding someone else’s and complaining about it.

  • I think it comes down to this: Does this affect your bottom line? For some it absolutely does. Twitter celebrities have been able to ride a nice wave of conference appearances, talks and demos. This may dry up once celebrities are on the scene and it hits the mainstream.

    For me as an underdog to a certain extent…I say bring it. I’m far more interesting then some jackass that wears non-ironic scarves any day of the week. I’m also bigger then Oprah. (No, I’m not. I’m sorry Oprah.)

  • @Deb – That is the beauty of it, isn’t it? We just have to continue with our strategy and engagement with our communities.

    @Stuart – Interesting thought. Who’s to say these celebrities would want to attend a MarketingProfs conference to talk about social media? I think that’s what people have become afraid of, and it’s only been a few weeks or months for these celebs to be on Twitter. IMO, the conference wave isn’t going to dry up because of celebrities – as popular as they are, most aren’t equipped to (or would even care to) talk about SM or of the like at an industry conference.

  • The “evil and useless” mainstream media were doing things that were key in the whole social media “movement”, if you like.

    * All about the conversation? Check out chat shows and televised public debates.
    * Cost-effective advertising? Check out cable.
    * Helping those around us? Check out the National Geographic or Discovery channel.
    * Community? Check out letters to newspaper editors.

    What I took from the whole debacle last week was that some of the “leaders” seemed to feel aggrieved because they’re losing their perch at the top. Question is, did they ever truly have a perch or was it just in their eyes.

    If social media is all about opening up to all then saying “Get the celebs off Twitter” is the very anti-social media and will only hold back its acceptance, not encourage it.

  • @Deb – I agree. That’s the great part about Twitter (and social media in general) … I follow neither Oprah nor Ashton, and I don’t HAVE to.

    I think of this surge of new Twitter-ers to the crowd of people who flood gyms everywhere January 2 after making a weight-loss resolution on new year’s. They’ll poke around, see what it’s all about, and then they’ll either leave because it’s not their cup of tea, or they’ll figure out how to use it in a way that works best for them.

    @Lex_D

  • @Danny – You bring up a good point. I think a lot of people, ‘leaders’ or not, felt it was their perch up top because this platform has been so accustomed to only tech and marketing folks on it. It was easy for us to stave off traditional people making their way onto Twitter, and even those MLM-ers. But when it came to the celebs, their power is way greater than anyone really that would want to get on Twitter – only thing to do was to backlash.

  • Sonny,
    I’m glad you wrote this post. And Danny, I followed the back and forth on FriendFeed some days ago, and was really happy on your stance. Sonny put it simply, Do You. If Twitter has been working for you, then the celeb invasion is not gonna throw you off your game. Imagine the good that could happen, if one of these celebs found out about one of your causes on Twitter and decided to get involved?
    We all have to be honest with ourselves. If you wanted this to be a clique, then say so. Nothing wrong with being a big fish in small pond, but make sure you inform us of that agenda. What I think is cool about Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook et al, is the SOCIAL part. Meeting new people, finding out new apps and viewpoints, and even checking out what celebs are doing is all part of it, IMHO.

  • @Bryan – Thanks so much for your comment. You make a great point about opportunity. Danny and other people doing similar projects could GREATLY benefit from a celebrity or big media name catching wind of their work. There just seems to be a lot more good vs. bad than people are lead to believe.

  • Best part: “Do YOU.” Indeed. Gotta stop being jealous of others and use Twitter for yourself not without worrying what others do with it.

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