CASE STUDY AND GUIDELINES: Celebrities and Social Media

Image Credit: Right On Magazine This post wraps up our week-long discussion on industry giants going digital, from the music industry to the travel industry – to everything in between! By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur) I have a confession to make, you just have to promise not to judge me: I follow Taylor Swift on Twitter. Read more

Image Credit: Right On Magazine

This post wraps up our week-long discussion on industry giants going digital, from the music industry to the travel industry – to everything in between!

By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)

I have a confession to make, you just have to promise not to judge me: I follow Taylor Swift on Twitter.

You know, the pop country darling behind such toe-tapping hits as “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me.”  Yup, that Taylor Swift.  I don’t just follow her, but I gush when she tweets about having lunch with Katy Perry, or posts a Twitpic of herself dressed up for an awards show.

Okay, so basically social media is just another camera lens for fans to stalk their favorite celebrities.


How many times have celebrities spoken out (or, in some cases, acted out) against paparazzi taking incriminating photos, or gossip columnists spreading nasty rumors?  How many times have Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt broken up?  How many times has Eminem died?

When it comes to taking control of their own reputations, many celebrities have dropped the reins.  Their agents and representatives manage their image.  The media drives their stories.  They’re trapped in their own bodies, and it’s downright inhumane.

Fortunately, a new generation of tech-savvy celebs are empowering themselves with social media.  They’re putting an end to the rumors and letting their true selves shine through.  Now, we get the thoughts and perspectives directly from the source.

In addition to reinforcing the talent’s personal connection with the people that matter most – the fans – social media can do some serious damage control.


Not since Montell Jordan (remember him?) has a debut single by a male vocalist debuted in the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100.  Not until Chris Brown’s “Run It.”  Brown’s debut album went double platinum, and the young R&B singer went on tour with such acts as Beyonce and Ne-Yo.  His distinctive mixture of romantic lyrics set to a dance beat quickly shaped Chris Brown into music’s newest darling, and even gained him some attention from pop princess Rihanna.

Chris Brown and Rihanna’s wholesome relationship rendered them music royalty.  Then, disaster struck.  On February 8, 2009, Chris Brown turned himself in to a Los Angeles police station.  He was booked on domestic violence felony charges and the case went to trial.  Chris Brown plead guilty to one count of felony assault on June 22, 2009, in exchange for a plea bargain.  By this time, the horrible truth had bubbled to the surface: his victim was then-girlfriend Rihanna.


There was public outcry, first over the offense, then over the light sentencing.  Photos of Rihanna’s battered face went viral.  Corporate brands dropped Chris Brown from their endorsement deals.  Radio stations refused to play his songs.  Public appearances were cancelled.  Anti-Chris Brown websites and Facebook groups popped up all over the Internet.  His career crumbled right before our eyes.


Chris Brown turn to social media for his recovery plan.  On July 21, 2009, Chris Brown issued a public apology to Rihanna in the form of a YouTube video.  Defying his attorney’s advice, Chris Brown told viewers “Although I will do some interviews and answer some questions in the future, I felt that it was time that you heard directly from me that I am sorry.”

Chris Brown agreed to do an exclusive interview on Larry King Live, disclosing details about his rocky relationship with Rihanna and what led him to violence on the night of the incident.  While Brown’s words held very little meaning for a public whose trust has long been lost, his choice of wardrobe sparked a social media phenomenon, making the hashtag “#chrisbrownsbowtie” a top trending topic on Twitter.  In fact, it even compelled one viewer to create an account as the voice of said bowtie.


A year after the incident that crash and burned his image, we all know that Chris Brown’s recovery plans haven’t been quite as successful as he expected – and the frustration is starting to settle in.  This time, Chris Brown decided to vent via Twitter, accusing vendors of not stocking his product and stifling record sales of his most recent album, Graffiti.  He ranted, “when there are new releases, its mandatory to put [them] on the shelves.  BUT NO SIGN OF GRAFFITI. BS”  Shortly after, Chris Brown deactivated his Twitter account, @MechanicalDummy.  Unexpected, considering he even wrote a song in tribute to the social media platform.

Recent news places Chris Brown back on Twitter under his own name, and back in the spotlight for causing trouble.  Brown and rapper Soulja Boy exchanged blows in 140 characters sometime in late March.  Somehow, 23-year-old recording artist Bow Wow even got thrown into the squabble, which has since blown over.


Chris Brown is a perfect case study of what celebrities shouldn’t do when it comes to social media, but that doesn’t mean that social media can’t be used to empower a celebrity and return control over their public image.

Here are Zemoga’s Top 3 tips for celebrity engagement in social media:

  1. Be authentic: use your real name, and make sure the content is coming directly from you…and not, say, your publicist.
  2. Engage your fans: social media is a two-way conversation, so limit your self-promotion and maintain consistent contact.
  3. Don’t air your dirty laundry: before you start beef with another artist or rant about a major corporation, remember that the real-time web makes sure that your words are captured forever.

Social media could do wonders for celebrities in jeopardy (ehem, Lindsay Lohan), or it can completely destroy their reputations (ehem, Lindsay Lohan).  Can you think of any celebrity social media success stories?  Whose career can be saved by social media?