Celebrity practice and brand engagement on Twitter


Recently singer Mika launched the Twitter campaign #rompioilsilenzio (break the silence), against the discrimination of homosexuals, which was trending topic on Twitter for hours. After one of his concert posters was daubed with the word ‘frocio’ (faggot) in the city of Florence he responded to his Twitter fan base to go against this. When taking a closer look at celebrity management, self-branding, (fan) engagement and word of mouth Twitter is one of the best social media options.

The rise of social media has changed celebrity culture in the way people relate to celebrities and how celebrity is ‘practiced’. There used to be a highly controlled and regulated ‘celebrity management’ in traditional media. But Twitter, probably more than other social media, transformed this into an active interaction between artists and their fan base.

The fact that a celebrity grants you a peek into his or her thoughts or daily life through messages and pictures and you can @reply to this creates a sense of intimacy, like you can really connect and make this person ‘part of your everyday life’. If fans receive @replies back, they function as a public acknowledgement and are publicized within the fan community. Celebrities mention fans or react to fan requests (like Mika) to perform connection and availability, give back to followers, manage their popularity, brand and thus increase engagement and word of mouth. Next to this, celebrities on Twitter use language, words, cultural symbols, and conventions in order to create affiliation with their followers, which also adds to the feel of authenticity of the celebrity Twitter account. Unlike firms, a celebrity Twitter account needs this feel of authenticity because otherwise there will be scepticism about the genuineness of the microblog.

Thus, Twitter is the ideal medium in creating a sense ‘back stage’ access through ‘front stage’ actions. For a celebrity this requires a carefully constructed self-presentation, self-branding or identity performance. Of course a famous person never really expose their actual private life on social media. But with celebrity becoming a performative, interactive practice through Twitter, they need to manoeuvre in a complex social environment in which fans, other famous people and intermediaries like gossip reporters co-exist. So it can be tricky business. Because a celebrity’s actions on Twitter may also backfire, depending on the contextual point of view, creating negative exposure. On the other hand, Twitter also makes it easier to respond to gossip and bad publicity directly.

In Mika’s case, his Twitter action involving the ‘poster incident’ created a positive effect amongst fans, in the industry and the (old and new) media. Lucky coincidence that this happened a few months after releasing his new album and announcing upcoming concerts. Making his Twitter campaign add to awareness, ‘Mika brand’ engagement, word of mouth and probably increasing revenue in its wake. I’m curious about your thoughts on this; is it too much of a coincidence or is it just making really good use of someone’s bad taste, meaning the person who vandalised the poster?

 References

Hoffman, D. L., & Fodor, M. (2010). Can you measure the ROI of your social media marketing. MIT Sloan Management Review, 52(1), 41-49.

Marwick, A. (2011). To see and be seen: Celebrity practice on Twitter. Convergence: the international journal of research into new media technologies, 17(2), 139-158.

Wildenberg, van der N. (2015, 2 April) Mika komt ook met nieuw album [online article]. Accessed at: http://www.maxazine.nl/2015/04/02/mika-komt-ook-met-nieuw-album/

http://www.top40.nl/nieuws/mika-laat-niet-met-zich-sollen

http://www.winq.nl/2015/08/zanger-mika-start-campagne-tegen-homohaat/

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4 thoughts on “Celebrity practice and brand engagement on Twitter

  1. I like the fact that you approach brand awareness, engagement and word of mouth using

    social media from a celebrity point of view, because it’s not only companies but also well-

    known persons (who perhaps are a sort of ‘company’ in their own right) making use of

    this. A little point of criticism; for me knowing the concepts of front stage and back stage

    your reference of this was easy to understand. For people who never heard of these

    concepts this perhaps is not the case, so you could have explained this a bit better.

    Nevertheless I don’t think this detracts from your main point and I find your question

    interesting. I can relate to the scepticism, but in this case I think it’s making good use of

    someone’s bad taste. Unfortunately there are still people who cannot deal with a different

    sexual preference but in this case the negative expression was very well and cleverly

    converted into positive attention in favour of Mika. Guess it was just a matter of luck of

    something bad happening at the right time and perhaps turning this into revenue booster.

    Or maybe, as an evil thought, it was indeed set up as a publicity stunt which would be a

    very dangerous one. Because when this would leak, it would destroy his credibility. But it

    does prove that it are not only companies who make clever use of social media. A similar

    example was famous Dutch singer Anouk posting pictures of her butt on Twitter and

    entering a thus created ‘Kontest’(who has the nicest butt contest; people could send in

    pictures…) of Radio 3FM, a popular Dutch radio station, which has traditionally been

    playing many Anouk songs. Meaning, this could have been staged because this happened

    roughly one month before she released her new album. Giving exposure a whole new

    meaning….

  2. I’m sorry my comment was a bit strangely posted because I first read it down on word, so here again (better readable):

    I like the fact that you approach brand awareness, engagement and word of mouth using social media from a celebrity point of view, because it’s not only companies but also well-known persons (who perhaps are a sort of ‘company’ in their own right) making use of
    this. A little point of criticism; for me knowing the concepts of front stage and back stage your reference of this was easy to understand. For people who never heard of these concepts this perhaps is not the case, so you could have explained this a bit better.

    Nevertheless I don’t think this detracts from your main point and I find your question interesting. I can relate to the scepticism, but in this case I think it’s making good use of someone’s bad taste. Unfortunately there are still people who cannot deal with a different sexual preference but in this case the negative expression was very well and cleverly converted into positive attention in favour of Mika. Guess it was just a matter of luck of something bad happening at the right time and perhaps turning this into revenue booster.

    Or maybe, as an evil thought, it was indeed set up as a publicity stunt which would be a very dangerous one. Because when this would leak, it would destroy his credibility. But it does prove that it are not only companies who make clever use of social media. A similar example was famous Dutch singer Anouk posting pictures of her butt on Twitter and entering a thus created ‘Kontest’(who has the nicest butt contest; people could send in pictures…) of Radio 3FM, a popular Dutch radio station, which has traditionally been playing many Anouk songs. Meaning, this could have been staged because this happened roughly one month before she released her new album. Giving exposure a whole new meaning….

    References

    http://www.parool.nl/parool/nl/23/MUZIEK/article/detail/1878845/2011/04/21/Anouk-plaatst-weer-billenfoto.dhtml

    • Ah, yes, I understand your criticism. I shall explain this briefly for other readers. The ‘frontstage – backstage’ theory was created by sociologist Erving Goffman (The presentation of self in everyday life, 1959).
      It approaches life situations using a dramaturgical model; we put on a different act when we present ourselves to others, choosing behaviour and/or words that reflect what we want to keep up (frontstage), than when we let our guard down (backstage).
      So celebrities on Twitter give their followers the feeling that what they show and say is all very natural, like that’s who they really are in their private lives (backstage) and that their willing to share that with their followers. This what appeals to their followers, while of course this behaviour is (often) carefully staged (frontstage).
      The same goes for the concept of affiliation; using language, words, cultural symbols and conventions that create a ‘personal’ connection to the followers. Like, for example, Lady Gaga referring to her fans/followers as ‘Little Monsters’ or Mariah Carry replying her followers as Lambs. All frontstage behaviour with a backstage feel to followers.
      This is just one way that this (old) theory can be applied to (contemporary) social media use. Perhaps it’s an idea for you elaborate on the frontstage – backstage concept some more (or from a different point of view) in one of your blogs? Because it, of course, is a great and still relevant concept for everyone to think/debate about in modern, social media driven society.

      • Good idea of integrating frontstage and backstage in one of my own blogs! I think I will.

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