Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shaqtastic: The Effect of Celebrities on Social Media

Celebrities have proved to be a very positive light in the social media world lately. First you had figures like Shaq join Twitter. Followed by Britney Spears, Lance Amrstrong, one of my favorite feeds is from comedian Michael Ian Black and MANY others. Then there's the recent publicity stunt around Ashton Kutcher vs. CNN for the race to 1 Million followers, where, and I quote the YouTube video posted of Larry King who said to Kutcher, "...CNN will bury you..." The celebrity presence on Twitter has massively impacted the buzz for those outside the online, tech-centric, social media savvy audience it began as.

Other services are looking to tap similar models to Twitter. Yesterday, Mashable's Jennifer Van Grove posted a piece on the potential for another Shaq-effect surrounding social media micro-vlogging service 12seconds. Shaq's first video on the service is about his new career as a male model. Could Shaq, one of the most prolific celebrities in the nation and important influencers in briding the gap between social media and pop culture, do the same thing to 12seconds as it did for Twitter?

For a frame of reference Twitter's users grew exponentially after Shaq joined in November 2008 and he has absolutely had a major effect around the generation of buzz for the service. While the whole surge cannot be solely attributed to Shaq's presence, he has definitely driven Twitter into the sports world, including players and news outlets. Twitter is becoming a staple in mainstream news and pop culture worlds, with celebrities of all sizes and types joining up to build their following.

Now the question is, will 12seconds popularity take off because of Shaq? Will it spur the same amount of celebrity attraction to the service? I mean, their service was just integrated into the new iteration of TweetDeck the most widely used third-party applications for twitterfeeds. Full House's Joey Gladstone... uhh, I mean, Dave Coulier... is already on 12seconds pitching his site and the chance to win a Joey Gladstone action figure, I know what you're thinking, and all I have to say is cut, it, out. The integration is there, it could DEFINITELY take off...

Now, on the otherhand, I'm going to play the devil's advocate for a second. While Shaq's celebrity presence will undoubtedely have an impact on users immediately, it will have no where near the steep trend he's spurred on Twitter and here's why -- TIMING.

Here are a few things surrounding this time frame which I think will influence why 12seconds will not take off in a Twitter like fashion:
  1. The iPhone's video capabilities have not been released and are not expected to be released until this summer
  2. People are still trying to get their heads around the 140 characters basis of Twitter it's hard to blow people's mind when everyone is so focused on one hot thing
  3. It needs a couple hundred thousand more users to have adopted the service and regular users using it (Note: I do not have user numbers, but am basing this off how many times people post on the main page - 24 in the last 32 minutes)
Timing is the end-all-be-all for the success of products and services - It's slightly different, but ask Web TV or the Apple Newton what they think about timing.

I hope it 12seconds does awesome - I'm really interested to see numbers surrounding the Shaq-effect because I think 12seconds is a really cool service and an interesting way to tap the Twitter model. I can't wait to watch Shaq's videos and hope he continues to raise awareness and buzz for the service. It's hard to find someone, let alone an icon, as honest and down to earth as the real Shaq.

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