Social media has become a large part of the internet. People have become “addicted” to their Facebook, MySpace and now their Twitter accounts. The craze around Twitter has been increasing since its launch in 2006. With just a simple 140-characters anyone has the ability to update their followers on what they are doing. (If you are unclear on how to use Twitter here is a short clip to help you understand how Twitter works.) In an interview with the LA-Times co-creator of Twitter Jack Dorsey explains what Twitter is to him, “It’s a new way to interact with people. And at the same time, it does a very good job of exposing what’s happening in the world right now.” (Sarn0, 2009) This attraction to Twitter and being able to “interact” instantly with people as events happen in your life is part of the reason its popularity has increased. Part of the Twitter craze has come from the celebrity interest and use of Twitter. 140-character updates allow them to reach their fans and tell them what they are doing. In this paper the appeal of Twitter and how celebrities are using it to promote themselves; and also how celebrities Ashton Kutcher and Shaquille O’Neal have used Twitter to increase their fame. Celebrities have been able to promote themselves and raise their popularity by doing nothing more than tweeting their daily whereabouts.
When looking at what makes Twitter appealing for celebrities, one might question why celebrities would want to be in the spotlight even more than they already are. They spend much of their time hiding from the paparazzi and dodging tabloids, so why would they be interested in letting millions of people follow their tweets? P. Diddy simply stats that, “One of the reasons it’s [Twitter] kind of big for celebrities is because it lets us take the power back…if you read my twitters, then you really know who I am.” (Parent, 2009) This put into perspective why Twitter gets such a draw from celebrities, they are able to take control over what is being said about them. Instead of tabloids starting rumors, celebrities can tweet and tell what is happening in their lives. This is the celebrity chance to speak about what they want and not about what other people say about them or what their writers and the head of their public relations want them to say.
Not only do celebrities have the chance to set the record straight about what is being said about them, but they are able to communicate with their fans. All a fan has to do is go onto a celebrity page and click “follow” and then they will instantaneously start to get those celebrity tweets. Celebrities have the ability to say whatever they want to their fans that follow them, “It’s an opportunity for stars to cut out the intermediaries like an agent, and it’s very direct communication with their fans and the response is immediate.” (Parent, 2009) The directness of the communication between a celebrity and a fan is something that cannot be over looked. Never have fans been able to receive messages from celebrities directly. On our personal Twitter accounts we get updates about what a celebrity is doing as they are doing it. For example on November 24th at 9:42pm Ashton Kutcher tweets “I’m gonna go try to uncatch a cold.” His millions of followers got his tweet saying that he was sick. This direct message from Kutcher is an example of how celebrities are able to take out publicists and have contact with their fans.
These simple tweets are helping celebrities promote themselves. Without doing anything but typing 140-characters allows these celebrities to reach a new level of stardom. So how are these celebrities promoting themselves with Twitter? They are tweeting about what they do and creating more interest around their lives. These tweets keep their names in households and people continue to talk about them even when they do not have a film or record coming out. It also allows them to promote their work and keep their fans interested in upcoming ventures that celebrities are taking, “Twitter appeals to celebrities because it offers a relatively low-maintenance way to keep audiences engaged in between film debuts and album releases.” (Wortham. 2009) Celebrities are able to keep that connection with their fans even when their names are not in the press. Tweets allow fans to be engaged in what celebrities are doing even when their names are not in the press. This tweet comes from Britney Spears on November 14th, “I just got a demo of my new iPhone App that comes out Monday and I’m playing with it on my phone non-stop. I love it!! -Brit.” Even though she has not been in the press for her singing career, she is attempting to create interest in her IPhone application. Promoting herself even though she has not done anything with her talents, besides tweeting. Celebrities use twitter to keep their fame and in some cases become even larger celebrities.
One of the celebrities that is using Twitter and has been able to create more fame for himself is Ashton Kutcher, whose account name is apulsk. He has been esteemed as being responsible for helping not only his own fame, but the popularity of Twitter, “Kutcher is leveraging his fame to make himself more famous by declaring his intention to become, well, even more famous.” (Weinman, 2009) We have not seen Kutcher in a movie or television series for over a year, but he has been able to increase his popularity with 4.2 million Twitter followers so far. People are talking more about Kutcher than when he was in the spotlight for his talents as an actor, “Why, when he doesn’t seem to do a lot, is he one of the most-discussed stars in the world? The answer is Twitter. Kutcher was one of the first celebrities to make aggressive use of the social networking site…” (Weinman, 2009) It is true, that we are talking about him more than we ever have. Because of the fame he has created on Twitter, he has made appearances on Oprah and Larry King Live. If it where not for his Twitter fame Kutcher would not be appearing on these shows. So even though Kutcher is not walking the red carpet at a premier he is Twitter royalty and creating new fame for himself.
Not only is Kutcher trying to promote himself, but he is trying to do philanthropic advertisements on his Twitter. One of his ventures includes getting donations for mosquito nets for malaria patients, “Sometimes he’ll [Kutcher] use Twitter for a good cause, usually if it helps promote himself, (he agreed to donate mosquito nets to malaria victims).” (Weinman, 2009) Even though it may be debateable if Kutcher tries to do help the community for his own good, he still tweets about malaria, on October 22nd he tweets, “good luck guys @MalariaNoMore: ThinkSocial Awards: World Malaria Day.” It may be a simple tweet, but he still gives awareness to malaria. Whether or not his intentions are selfish he is still tweeting to raise awareness for a good cause.
Another celebrity that has been able to make his fame bigger than what it was, is Shaquille O’Neall. Known for his basketball skills, Shaq, whose Twitter account name is The Real Shaq, has made himself a public figure through Twitter. He has not created the same fame as Kutcher, but has made his way into the notable celebrity tweeters. Shaq has 2.6 million followers that get his tweets as of December 13, 2009. He is known for his “random acts of shaqness” where he makes statements that do not have much more depth than saying what he is doing, “random act of shaqness. 480 west under sign 17b Brooklyn heights nxt right pair of autograph lebron shoes, and bobble head I saw it myself.” Sometimes his tweets are difficult to understand, but he tweets often and stays in communication with his fans.
Shaq has been tweeting his location and letting his fans meet up with him. He will give an address and allow them to come to where he is, “Shaquille O’Neal clued his Twitter fans to his whereabouts in Arizona..several of them joined the basketball star for a meal, documenting the entire fathering on Twitter.” (Wortham. 2009) With Twitter Shaq was able to meet his fans and remove the middle man of publicists. He tweets directly to his fans. Recently he tweeted, “Yo I’m on east 9th under the lebron sign whoeva finds me can come to the game tomorro good luck I’m hiding,” for his fans effort to find him he gives them a reward. This keeps them talking about Shaq and raise more interest around him. Because of Twitter Shaq has become more than a basketball player and more of a public figure using Twitter for stardom.
Even though Ashton Kutcher, Shaquille O’Neal and most of the celebrities that tweet have talents in their fields of expertise, they have raised their stardom. Simply by tweeting 140-characters they have been able to directly appeal to their fans to keep their popularity rising. By taking away the middle man, of agents and publicists, celebrities are writing their tweets directly to their fans. When these celebrities are on hiatus from their actual jobs they are keeping fans talking about them with their tweets. It is a smart tactic of allowing fans to stay engaged in your life as the celebrity lives it. These celebrities might not be doing anything news worthy on the basketball court or on the big screen, but they are making national headlines with their Twitter accounts.