How Social Media Has Redefined “Celebrity” And Made It Free for the Taking

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By Bill Seaver, Micro Explosion Media

I’ve been fascinated by people’s interest in celebrity since I was a child. With the last name Seaver, my grandpa used to jokingly tell people we were related to the famous New York Met’s pitcher, Tom Seaver. He wanted to tap into Tom Terrific’s celebrity status, if only for a moment. Then, my brother Mike, really got a dose of the celebrity halo effect when Kirk Cameron made Mike Seaver from the show Growing Pains a cultural icon. To this day, people make that connection.

Celebrity and business have been longtime partners in mutual success but I think we’re seeing celebrity as we’ve known it change. I think if we understand the change, the partnership between celebrity and business will be more beneficial than ever, it’s just going to look quite different from the way we’ve always seen it.

Redefining Celebrity As We’ve Known It
To understand the idea of celebrity, we have to first redefine celebrity from our conventional understanding. Celebrity is no longer reserved for moviestars, rock bands, and pro athletes. Celebrity at the most basic level simply means “being known” among a group of people.

Historically we’ve attributed the opportunity to “be known” to an exclusive type of person who has broad exposure through traditional media channels like movies, television, and print media. When the Internet started to get really popular a decade ago, it tested the original definition of celebrity for the first time. A new brand of celebrities emerged as they danced, blogged, and treadmilled (if only that were a word) their way to fame. The term “Internet celebrity” was born. It was the beginning of the era when anyone had the chance to be known about virtually anything.

Celebrity For The Masses
While Internet celebrities were getting their 15 megs of fame, the Internet itself was changing. It was becoming cheaper (often free), easier to use, and more social. Those first Internet celebrities were really just early adopters of what would be a tidal wave of word, image, and video content by the masses. Media was being handed to the masses and celebrity for the masses was on its heels.

At the same time the masses had the opportunity to freely and easily create media, social networks were emerging to let them find people who would want that media. A wonderful cross-pollination process began to emerge where people could both create content and engage like-minded people in conversation. That gave content creators the opportunity to simultaneously promote their content and learn from others to spark new ideas, and thus, more content. This social cycle was born. Social media was born.

Today, we see this all over the place. It’s commonplace for individuals to create content (media). The new definition of celebrity is common too. Most of us have heard stories of people who started blogs, podcasts, or online video channels and gained a following over time. Those are all cases of the new celebrity status playing out. Today, the opportunity for anyone to “be known” is available to those who choose it.

If, then, celebrity is being redefined and is more accessible, the question for all of us is how it works so we can use it and how it affects the way companies do business. I have some thoughts on that I’m going to share in the coming weeks. In the meantime, who are your favorite Internet celebrities? What companies do you think understand and cultivate this redefined celebrity to help their business?