Social Media, Hollywood Style
In 2011, popular star of TV and film Charlie Sheen, the son of American acting legend Martin and star of hit movies Platoon, Hot Shots and Wall Street, declined into what can only be described as a very public ‘meltdown’. He was fired from his job as highest-paid actor in television on the hit show Two and a Half Men and proceeded to post homemade videos to his website detailing his habit of smoking “seven-gram rocks” of crack cocaine and his staunch believe that he was imbued with the blood of a tiger.
Sheen waged war on his former employers using the power of YouTube and by the time the mainstream press got hold of him – in the form of an interview for Fox News – it became a meme so enormous that it flooded the English-speaking world. The television media provided only a backdrop; it just so happened he saved his most outrageous ramblings for that particular appearance, but the legwork was done entirely by social media sharing. At the height of this mania, Sheen decided to join Twitter. Before long he held the record for the fastest time from zero to 1million followers, gaining 129,000 a day for the first three weeks.
When examining the phenomenon of the modern celebrity’s social media presence, Twitter simply has to be the centrepiece. It seemed to come along at just the right time; MySpace had experienced a meteoric rise and an equally dramatic fall from grace as Facebook took over, prompting ‘everyday’ people to share their thoughts, photos and as many middle names as they could muster with anyone who would listen. From a famous person’s point of view, Twitter offered the selective edge they were looking for, a place where they could share carefully sculpted one-liners, constant plugs for their latest movie and posed photos while remaining in complete control of their output.
Facebook acts as a different animal entirely; while many celebrities such as Lady GaGa are notorious for updating their Twitter via smart phone personally, along with homemade photos and videos, Facebook pages are easier updated from a laptop so are usually run by the management and are much more commercially focused. Books, music downloads, t-shirts, baseball caps, fragrances and anything else that a celebrity can think to sell will be pushed through their Facebook page and targeted to just the right users, based on other content they have engaged with in the past.
However, not all social media users with a high level of public profile are in it for the money. Activists, academics, comedians, journalists and anyone who thinks their opinions are worth hearing have taken to Twitter in a bid to keep their material fresh and beat rivals to the punchline. As soon as a story hits the news, anyone with an account can air their personal slant in as many seconds as it takes to think up a clever joke and type 140 characters (although a significant number bypass the first step). And it’s not just the intelligentsia who are looking for an instant soapbox; sports stars have got in on the act too, and English soccer player Joey Barton – not renowned for his sparkling wit or tact – has attracted so much criticism from his Twitter posts that he got laughed out of the premier league.
The power of social media can make stars out of the most Average Joe, as we’ve seen from the Chocolate Rain kid and his many contemporaries, and their fame rarely lasts longer than the allotted fifteen minutes. However, it’s enough to leave the more ‘traditional’ Glitterati in a panic that they may have been replaced. Therefore social media has become a necessity rather than a mere luxury, and anyone who shuns the Twitter bandwagon is labelled an enigma at best, but more likely a Luddite or a never-was. For the rest of us, we can rest assured that bored Sunday evenings will go a lot quicker by reading Charlie Sheen’s crack-fuelled ramblings in 140 characters or less.
This article was written by Barry Cooke. Barry is a respected SEO and usability consultant who has been working in search and social media for over 15 years in a number of markets. He is also an expert and user of social networks and chat online services.
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