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A Million Followers and Nothing Said

  |  May 19, 2011   |  Comments   |  

How to prevent a click to follow from turning hollow for a celebrity brand.

There isn't a day that goes by when one doesn't read of brands (and their agencies) achieving yet another follower (and fan) milestone. Sounds great. Perhaps it is.

Or perhaps not always.

Certainly not, if one looks at the following on Twitter. @Beyonce has garnered a million-plus followers.

Which one might say is par for course for a global star who's probably sold many more than a million music albums. But wait - she's got this following even though she hasn't tweeted once. Yes, zero tweets, yet a million-plus followers.

One can argue that it's the power of celebrity at work here. The opportunity of getting closer (within tweet distance) to a star. And enjoying a voyueristic peep into the lives and times of the star (in this case Beyonce).

Maybe it is. And maybe this behaviour would not be exhibited with non-celebrities.

But I have observed this 'pull' with brands too. And not just brands that enjoy a 'celebrity' following of their own.

And I've noticed continuing growth (with spurts too) in fan numbers, even on what are obviously abandoned pages. Or pages created by fans (unofficial pages), and then forgotten about.

This brings me to a fundamental question that a lot of marketers are grappling with everyday: How much real brand love does a million fans on Facebook or a million followers on Twitter translate into?

For the moment, let's stick with discussing 'celebrities as brands', especially since the number of celebrities looking for professional social media marketing assistance is rising (Charlie Sheen, are you reading this?!)

So when it's about a 'magnet' (celebrity) brand, i.e., a brand that by its mere presence attracts followers to its social media presence the moment its set up, a question comes to mind:

Would having an inactive presence affect the way the celeb is seen by its followers, and over time affect the pull of the celeb to its fan base? Or would people 'understand' the inactivity as being a typically star thing and continue being real-world fans?

Well, if we agree that the purpose of a fan signing up as a follower of a celebrity brand is to be able to engage or know about the celebrity, then it's clear that the fan expects to 'stay in the know' – and receive updates on what's new and happening in the celebrity's life, both on the 'work' front and personal front.

Some celebrity brands take this access-and-update business too seriously. And create a constant flow of updates.. a flow that's so strong, it's more like a flood. To a point, that's great, as it gives the fans more on the celebrity. But sometimes too much is just that – too much.

Beyond a point, free flowing (and constant) updates goes against the very grain of 'celebrity' and the aura of being just that wee bit beyond touch. And therefore remaining high on the desirability index of everyday folks.

The future of celebrity and enjoying a vibrant fan following according to me is about getting closer and more accessible to your fan base. For which social media is great. And then getting more real in the way you interact with your fans, so they see more and more of the person behind the stage-managed star - frailties, ambitions, et al. At the same time, balancing the accessibility with an aura of celebrity.

No one said being a celebrity brand was easy or that social media made it simple either. Being a celebrity is a start. Where you take it depends on how you play celebrity. And play social media.

Of course, all along remembering that the real star isn't the celebrity. But the audience. Who has the power to make or break a celeb. One person at a time. One tweet at a time.

This insight is something that non-celebrity brands like sneakers, chocolates, colas, and a million others will be well-served to remember as well.

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Ashok Lalla

Ashok is an award-winning global and regional Digital, Brand and Social Media Marketing leader with nearly 20 years of client and agency-side business experience on brands that cut across the spectrum from one-cent candies to million-dollar hotels stays. He has been passionately leveraging Digital to grow brands since 2000. Ashok is also the founder and author of 'The Future of Digital for Brands', a highly regarded global online community of over 3000 marketers spanning 65+ countries. You are welcome to join the conversation around The Future of Digital for Brands. He can be found tweeting at @ashoklalla.

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