The Era of Twitter Groupies

T-w-i-t-t-e-r. A seven-letter word that has been fully incorporated to the English vocabulary. It would not surprise me if school tests and dictionaries started to include the conjugation of the verb “tweet”. You know: I tweet, you tweet, he or she tweets… I am tweeting, I tweetted, I have tweeted… so on, so on. I am sure you have read/heard/spoken/written some of these words at some point in the past few years.

More precisely, since March 21, 2006. This is the date on which Twitter was founded, as a platform for users to post 140-character messages, a.k.a. one of the stars of the show – our known and beloved tweets.

Twitter_1Because of its blogging characteristic and the relatively small number of characters allowed in one post, it is also common to refer to Twitter as a microblogging service. It is important to highlight, however, that there are divergent opinions in the field as to whether Twitter should be considered a member of the “blogosphere club” or not.

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What is certain, though, is that Twitter is a social networking service. And, therefore, operates as any other network.

The technical aspect of this premise is that there is a user (the vertex, basic unit) and a tie (connection) between this user and another one.

But the dynamics here differ, in various ways but one in particular, from Facebook or the other main social networking sites. In Twitter, there are FOLLOWERS, not “friends” or “connections”. You are a Twitter user and you FOLLOW and are FOLLOWED by another Twitter user, that may or may not be your friend. That you may or may not know in person. That you may have never heard of before in your life.

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That means, basically, that you can follow your lab partner in the same way that you follow Justin Bieber. And what is scary horrifying i-hope-to-God-it-never-happens-to-me better yet, Justin Bieber can follow you back.

It did happen to a Brazilian teenage girl, and this was her reaction when she found out:

Well, fandom is really a matter of taste, and nobody is in place to judge, right? But what is important to highlight here, is that this strong and sometimes very intense relation between fans and their idols has always existed, since the early days of the Entertainment industry.

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What Twitter did was take this whole “Juliet, Nakedthing to another level: you do not write letters or e-mails to your idols anymore, you tweet them. And, as one of the wonders of internet is its speed and the amount of information that can be processed and exchanged by us in little time, there is actually a much bigger chance that he or she will tweet you back than there was of you receiving a reply from them.

Social networking has really made it easier for celebrities to communicate with their fans. In the past, celebs had to get a Web guru to create a stand-alone site and set up bulletin board systems, and things like that. It was a struggle. But now, third-party sites like Twitter allow fans to share ideas with and talk to these celebrities. And the celebrities have the opportunity to talk back without having to know the first thing about creating a Web site.

Steve Garfield’s interview for News-geek.com.

There is, in Twitter, a non-reciprocal aspect to the relation between anonymous fans and celebrities. The latter do not need to allow fans into their social account, whichever it is. They can remain “secure” and, at the same time, connected to the public.

What is unique about Twitter from the celebrity point of view? Most importantly, fans can send the celebrity personal messages without the celebrity needing to grant access to a personal page or site. The celebrity can reply in kind, again without having to join the fan’s page or without forming any kind of formal connection with the fan. If a fan is inappropriate, the celebrity can “block” that fan. A celebrity can read or not read “Tweets” from fans as he or she chooses, and fans don’t know if their messages are being read unless the celebrity replies.

Gayle S. Stever and Kevin Lawson’s article excerpt for the North American Journal of Psychology , Vol. 15, No. 2 , June 2013. 

On the celebrities’ side of the court, however, there are a few more elements to be considered. See, a number of celebrities’ Twitter accounts are actually not managed by the celebrities themselves, but by a social media manager or in some cases even a team that is specialized in this function.

Kathryn Chin states in her article entitled “How Celebrities Use Twitter to Build Their Brands” that celebrities can use Twitter to: create brand awareness, build emotional relationships, maintain brand image and stay relevant.

That because, from the celebrities’ point of view, Twitter is a Public Relations channel, and therefore needs to be taken care of as such.

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