Twitter and the Branding of the Celebrity Self
by Erin Meyers — Northeastern University
October 28, 2010 – 00:01
Twitter, like other new media platforms, has reconfigured the ways the celebrity image is constructed and circulated in culture. One key function of Twitter is as a promotional tool in which celebrities (and/or their cultural intermediaries) commodify and brand their images by blurring the distinctions between the private and public self. They can market their latest projects, drawing audiences back to the public work by engaging in private or "real" talk about that work (as opposed to a seemingly more stage managed interview or television appearance). But Twitter also promotes the celebrity brand more broadly by allowing the celebrity to attach her image to appropriate cultural products under the guise of the "authentic" private self.
Kim Kardashian (who currently boasts over 5 million followers) is a master of this mode of Twitter. Her tweets play a key role in allowing her to control and monetize her celebrity brand across media platforms. She regularly tweets reminders to watch new episodes of her reality shows as well as information on upcoming personal appearances, drawing them to her public self through private appeals (see slides 1 and 2). Kim has extended her star brand beyond reality television by endorsing fashion, beauty, and diet products that shore up her glamorous fashionista image as the preferred reading of her “real” self, and reinforces this image through Twitter.
Twitter supports this controlled cross-platform branding by enabling the star to directly advertise products that help support the preferred reading of her image, but in a way that tends to counteract the idea of direct advertisement by stressing her “real,” not staged, involvement with a product. For example,Kim is a paid QuickTrim spokesperson who regularly appears in print ads for the diet aid (see slide 3). But she also uses her Twitter feed to update fans on her own weight loss progress in ways that highlight her private and “real” self in ways not available in the ad (see slides 4 and 5).
Twitter feeds extend the reach of the celebrity as a paid endorser by explicitly stressing a direct connection with fans (see slide 6). This Kim is “real” as opposed to the staged public self projected in the print ads, but retains the same meaning and thus successfully manages her brand. By offering a glimpse of the celebrity’s private life that appears authentic, Twitter enables new forms of celebrity branding that simultaneously commodifies the image and allows the celebrity to more actively define the her brand by intentionally blurring the public and private selves.
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