Last night I was watched Jon Stewart interview Bill Crystal on The Daily Show. Crystal was his usual clever self. Then he started talking about Twitter.
Crystal had just joined Twitter and joked about trying to come up with material to tweet. (Appears he’s still looking.) This is the part of a celebrity interview that always makes me cringe as it brings back painful memories of teaching my dad how to use his iPhone. It seems like every week another star takes to Twitter with a mixture of bafflement and wonderment. Need proof?
Norm MacDonald started tweeting only about two weeks ago.
Click here to view the embedded video.
All of this begs the question: Do celebrities really get Twitter?
Charlie Sheen and Christina Aguilera only signed up recently. Gilbert Gottfried lost his job over tweets. James Franco admitted he took his feed down after getting calls about what he was saying. Ricky Gervais jumped off Twitter only after about a month because he failed to see the point.
The point, if you ask most social media experts, is to use Twitter as a way of keeping in touch with your fans, establishing engagement and loyalty. You create a handle, find and follow people, and post relevant messages. But, like in most aspects of life, celebrities don’t abide by the same rules. They follow very few people, if any. They’re messages are typically self-promotional and one-sided. And if they interact with anyone, it’s more likely to be a fellow star than a fan.
These are all practices most brands are told to avoid like a suspicious piece of malware.
But as a recent Freakonomics podcast proposed, the rules are more like guidelines for the rest of us plebeians. Twitter is more of a one-way street than many of us like to think. Freakonomics follows only Kai Ryssdal of NPR fame, but has managed to amass more than 300,000 followers. Celebrities don’t have to retweet and follow fans. They’re fan base is built-in. So maybe the question isn’t whether celebrities understand Twitter. Maybe the question is: Do they have to?
Is Twitter really a democratizing medium? Or does celebrity status rule over relevance?