SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE CELEBRITY FACTOR

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Ambuli Victor.

The re/code mobile conference took
place a couple of weeks ago, and
among the speakers discussing the
trends in tech were YouTube’s
Susan Wojcicki, Instagram’s Kevin
Systorm, Kim Kardashian West and…
“Wait, what? Kim Kardashian is a
tech expert now? Seriously???”
Many on Twitter were not
convinced , and even Kara Swisher
had to kickoff the interview
somewhat apologetic going over
Kardashian West’s impressive social
footprint: 21 million Instagram
followers; 25.2 million Twitter
followers; and her iPhone game
made her millions in the last year
(and she does it all via a
BlackBerry ). If that’s not a savvy
mobile tech powerhouse then what
is?
Kardashian West is much more
than a reality-show star at this
point but in a way the reason she
is a pioneer in using social media
and developing her media brand,
stems from the fact that she first
got famous on reality TV.
Reality stars are good examples of
artists that have massive appeal,
great brand recognition and (for
some) the talent to have successful
careers after the show ends.
However, when they are reality
stars, they have no leverage over
the show producers. If their show
gets dropped, if their persona gets
twisted in the editing room, their
career could end before it even
really started.
That is why social media outlets
are key for these artists; they allow
them to connect directly to their
audiences. If E! drops Keeping Up
with the Kardashians tomorrow, Kim
will still be famous, because every
time she’s online, she can connect
with an audience more than twice
the size of the average viewership
of an episode of The Voice on NBC.
Having this direct channel to her
fans, she can now easily branch out
to other ventures, like her mobile
app.
Another social media powerhouse is
Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen has about
33 million Twitter followers and
about 100 million YouTube views
per month. As a TV star, having her
own video space seems vital. She
recently launched ellentube, a
website with an accompanying slick
mobile app that allows fans to view
her show’s highlights, additional
clips and even upload their own
cute home videos.
So what are the main reasons to
build such a unique brand
experience and go, in Ellen’s case,
beyond YouTube?
It’s about building a community;
videos uploaded to ellentube are
moderated, which is not a simple
feat. It surely requires quite an
operation in the backend. However,
creating a safe environment is key
for Ellen’s brand. If she is going to
throw all her weight behind this,
she must make sure her fans feel
completely at home there. This
feeling is going to encourage them
to come back and participate.
This environment, which marketers
usually refer to as “brand safety,” is
key to attracting large sponsors
that usually worry about having
their pre-roll ads before a cute
kitten video. So if Ellen can make
both her audience and her
advertisers comfortable, this site
has enormous potential.
It’s about owning the data. In her
re/code interview, Kardashian West
called her Twitter followers “an
amazing focus group.” The ability
to get direct, unfiltered responses
from fans is priceless. Kardashian
West often uses it to consult with
her fans about which restaurant to
go to, but she can also use that as
a focus group when making
business decisions. Netflix is using
its fan base for that and HBO is
looking to do the same.
In Ellen’s case, her producers can
now make a calculated decision to
air a user-generated video from the
site, based on how many people
liked it on ellentube.
These examples boil down to being
able to call your own shots.
Creating your own video site or
gaming app isn’t easy; it takes
investment, time and expertise.
However, if you team up with the
right people, the potential upside
is enormous. It’s all about
maintaining creative control.
These celebrities know their
audiences better than any video or
gaming expert out there. So if they
are independent and can create
their own experiences — as well as
have a direct channel to their fans
— their possibilities in the digital
space are endless

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