Celebrities on Twitter – A whole new world of metrics

16 Jan

Today, Amitabh Bachchan had on his facebook page – “FB 88 – The strength that follows me on social media is now 9 million plus .. !!! Ata Boy !! And that is without paying any for it to grow … some pay for numbers to grow .. I would rather wait !!!”

Can you imagine, instead of saying “mere paas maa hai” (ok ok, i know shashi kapoor said it actually not amitabh), he’s now saying “mere paas 90 lakh Social Media fans hain”!! The mind boggles, doesnt it.

Brings me to the whole Social Media Influence scene, which i have been thinking of for a while. At one time, we created discovery and ranking algorithms for this precise animal – “Influence” on Social Media (and called it SMMART). But, as a participant in using Social Media for communication rather than as a data source for research and analytics, my perspective has changed.

So i looked at top people globally with maximum twitter followers. Of the top 10, 8 were entertainers (all musicians actually – and by the way even my musically-challenged-but-thinks-she-is-so-‘with-it’-7-year-old knows all of them), 1 was youtube and 1 was Obama (remember Obama’s winning comment was the most retweeted ever!). Lady Gaga, that badly dressed bad singer/ entertainer – actually has upwards of 33 million followers!!!

A look at similar trends in India showed me the top ten here had – 3 cricketers, 3 entertainers (actors not singers), 3 journalists/ news channels and 1 businessman. There you have it – multidimensional India – Cricket, Bollywood, Politics and Liquor :). The highest, M.S. Dhoni, had under 2 million followers. Amitabh Bachchan actually didnt feature on this list.

In terms of tweeting behavior though, only the news folks had active tweets, and none of them actually “followed” many people – so these were true celebrities or opinion leaders.

But look at Mr. Bachchan’s behavior on Facebook – the guy is almost as loquacious as Ms. Dutt (one of the top followed tweeters in India, a tenured journalist) – he posts almost daily – and does so not only to express himself (as a lot of celebrities are wont to do – “this is me guys, and since you folks will follow and like me whatever i do – i have only to drop a word and you will display groupie behavior 🙂 ) – he actually “engages” with his audience – so, he is using the social media channels not just as means of “self expression” but as means of “communication” – that is actually atypical. This behavior is typically restricted to journalists and opinion leaders/ politicians but not celebrities who are famous because of a skill – actors/ sportspeople. Mr. Bachchan, probably wanting to bridge the gap between opinion leaders and celebrities, (or maybe because he has, however briefly, spent time in politics) displays “engagement”. It’s a refreshing change (and one of the reasons why i do “Like” his facebook page)

Come now to that breed of “high influence” folks on certain topics/ categories – opinion leaders not on general stuff but on niches. These are folks who very very carefully cultivate their followers – they are actively encouraging/ engaging/ retweeting/ DMing/ thanking (which i hate, if its for retweets!) . The internet abounds with do’s and don’ts lists for twitter – from – tweeting multiple times (and the exact time slots you should do it at), the “follow back if you follow me”, the “unfollow automatically after x days” (In most “influence” alogorithms – your follower/ following ratio has a big input), the auto DMs when you follow, the tools for “managing” your social presence – this turns your “art of using Social Media” into a “science”. Many of them, as referred to even by Mr. Bachchan, buy followers – then turning this science into a “trade”!

The question to ponder upon, therefore, is this – do the metrics really make sense? Does celebrity status get measured by twitter followers? The answer is mixed actually – yes and no. As we saw, for celebrities who are already there – their twitter (or other Social Media metrics) are just another evidence of their celebrity status – so, they were celebrities first and “top followed” tweeple later – having said that, since human nature intrinsically recognises goals and works better if it has some milestone to attain – thousands/ hundreds of thousands/ millions of followers are a good digital hallmark of popularity. How highly corelated is this with digital “influence”? Not very highly at all (keep watching this space for thoughts on influence, popularity and all of that).

But, for folks who are using the medium to become celebrities – while you may not act/ sing/ govern/ broadcast/ make liquor or make money, you do have to show “thought leadership” even if it’s on the digital medium – after all, thats why people would even want to follow you – so, without original, exciting, funny content, its really difficult to get folks to follow you. This means, if you don’t want to “buy” followers – i guess you have to do what im doing (the hard way) – write a blog a day, then tweet it, then post it on Facebook…and linkedin…and …and….!!!

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3 Responses to “Celebrities on Twitter – A whole new world of metrics”

  1. Shoma January 17, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Very interesting piece. Now you have a follower in me :)!

    • joshsang January 17, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

      U hv to click on “follow” 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Of God, Google, and Graph Search « joshsang - January 18, 2013

    […] “Likes” can be bought as everyone knows (and Amitabh Bachchan referred to in his comment (you must forgive me a little self promotion – atleast its based on clicks and not bought […]

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