Monday, October 11, 2010

Summary of Celebrity Twitter Study

Hi there, after the summer break here is a summary of the main findings from the study of celebrity tweet streams I was working on earlier this year. There is more detail on the stats in the post just below, but here I'm reflecting on the possible relevance of the findings too:

Main findings:
1. Celebrities favour a 1-to-many form of broadcasting in twitter, not peer-to-peer messaging
2.  The majority of celebrity tweets are about their professional activity, not the ‘everyday’ domestic lives.
3. The immediacy of celebrity tweeting is used to prioritise shows or products (shown in collocational patterns for ‘today’, ‘tonight’ and ‘tomorrow’, which associate with ‘on the show’)
4. Like other tweeters, the links celebrities share in their tweets boost their professional status, but they share more photographs which literally increases their online image.
5. Celebrities cover over this self-promotion with a veneer of conversational strategy, telling jokes, praising and thanking their audience, asking questions, making positive evaluations.
6.  Women celebrities make positive evaluations in RTs more than men, especially Dannii Minogue and Demi Moore.
What’s the point?
Mainstream media sensationalise celebrity tweets as giving direct access to the ‘real person’, e.g. the Guardian’s recent piece on ‘seeing into the brain’ of the musician 50 cents, but in fact, most celebrities aren’t using twitter for personal self-disclosure.  We don't find out much about the celebrity themselves, let alone see 'into their brain'.
Twitter self-promotion for celebrities doesn’t necessarily result in influence.  A recent study from Northwestern University showed that specialist knowledge about areas of professional expertise was more important in trending topics than the number of followers or retweets gained by a celebrity.
Substance over style is more important for influence in Twitter.  This is the opposite of what happens in Facebook where seemingly trivial disclosures are important for the ‘social grooming’ work that this small talk achieves.



Anonymous A.D. Pask-Hughes said...

This post showed up in my RSS feed, sort I thought i'd comment!

There's been recent blog coverage of a twitter-based 'insult war' between Alan Sugar and Kirstie Allsopp, where he tweeted:

bloody cheek @KirstieMAllsopp was in celeb apprentice claims i was uncharitable lying cow, she was useless

Of course, he's still tweeting about professional activity and, arguably, it is a form of self-promotion (i.e. promoting himself as 'no nonsense' etc.)

On the other hand, such comments may be due to the immediacy of the medium which, however apt at PR most celebrities are, cannot be ignored. In this sense, perhaps it does let us see "into his brain".

7:56 AM  
Blogger Ruth Page said...

Hi there, thanks for your comment - it's good to hear from you! You make an interesting point here. I guess I would view the tweetwars between Alan Sugar and Kirstie Allsopp in terms of how the discourse style is depicting a certain character. I'm still not convinced it would let us see inside Lord Sugar's brain - that's a step too far for me!

1:06 PM  
Anonymous A.D. Pask-Hughes said...

That conclusion would be going too far, I agree.

However, I interpreted Alan Sugar's comments as sporadic and ad-hoc, without careful pre-planning and so on. I would suggest that he wouldn't have used quite the same terms in, for example, a radio interview. It shows a side of Alan Sugar that is less apparent through other media, and has arisen due to twitter's immediacy. In other words, it gives use "direct access to the 'real person'", at least in this instance, although I'd agree the mainstream media has a tendency to sensationalise such access.

2:09 AM  

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