Self branding and micro-celebrity
in Twitter
Dr Ruth Page
University of Leicester
rep22@le.ac.uk
Social Media Statistics: Participatory
culture (Jenkins 1992, 2006)?
• By 2007, over 70 million blogs were indexed in
the ...
Virtual ‘Linguistic Markets’ (Bourdieu
1977)
Self branding and micro-celebrity
• Discursive view of identity and interaction
(e.g. Bamberg et al 2006)
• Identity to be...
Visibility and Attention
Research Questions
• What are the linguistic practices which are
used in self-branding and micro-celebrity?
• Are they use...
Twitter 101
Types of Tweet
#Hashtags in Twitter
• Originated as search terms used by updaters
– Folksonomy
• Aggregate tweets about a particular topi...
Previous research on #hashtags
• Diffusion across the Twitter network (Huang et
al. 2010)
• As a response to television ev...
But...
• What kinds of identities
are signalled through
hashtags?
• What kinds of
interactions provide the
co-text for the...
Data sample
• 100 publically available Twitter accounts
– 40 corporations
– 30 celebrity practitioners
– 30 ‘ordinary’ acc...
Corporations
• travel:
– @bluejet, @luxorlv, @southwestair, @british_airways, @londonmidland, @connectbyhertz, @carnivalcr...
Celebrities
• Britney Spears, Ellen de
Generes, Ladygaga,
Oprah Winfrey, Demi
Moore, Lilly Allen, Paris
Hilton, Sarah Brow...
Types of tweet (as a %)
Relative frequency of hashtags in
updates
0
2000
4000
6000
8000
10000
12000
14000
16000
18000
celebrity ordinary' corporat...
Topic-based or evaluative tags
(as a % of all hashtags for each group)
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
corpora...
Most frequent topic-based hashtags
(relative frequency per million words)
General observations
• ‘Ordinary’ accounts
– Politics (#ge2010), sport (#cricket, #rugby),
entertainment (#eurovision, #le...
Individuation and Affiliation
Hashtags, identity and affiliation
• Companies individuate their identity
– Company names #EMC, #rubbermaid, #Chargers
• ‘...
Hashtags and Speech Functions
0.0%
20.0%
40.0%
60.0%
80.0%
100.0%
120.0%
celebrity corporate ordinary
information
goods an...
Grammatical Context of Hashtags
Declaratives: Broadcast breaking news
• #EMC Blogger Report is out!
http://bit.ly/i5Mo9V Top stories today via
@storagezil...
Imperatives: encourage engagement
• #FOODREVOLUTION ARMY!! 2 your battle
stations. SIGN the petition http://bit.ly/JOfoodr...
Questions: Audience Response
• What is an illegal "imNigrant" Gordon??
#leadersdebate
– Thu, 22 Apr 2010 20:17
• Darn, I a...
Conversational tagging?
• Hashtags used to promote visibility in updates
10 times more frequently than in addressed
messag...
Synthetic Personalisation (Fairclough
1989)
‘a compensatory tendency to give the
impression of treating each of the people...
Modified Retweets
• When one member forwards a message from
someone else to all their ‘followers’
• Reconfigures email for...
An example
Distribution of modified retweets
0
1000
2000
3000
4000
5000
6000
Celebrity Corporate Ordinary
Material added by celebrities
• Typically, added material is an evaluative assessment
– Outraged. RT @Laurapalooza: Staff ...
Material added by corporations
• Good idea! You can also recycle them! RT
@aplusmhs: @OrganizeAtlanta @Rubbermaid
we put o...
Reinforcing positive endorsement
• Thanks very much! RT @comedyfoodgirl I love
@WaitroseUK Brilliant choice, they're the
s...
Material added by ‘ordinary’ updaters
• Oh joy. RT @robmacpherson lady in co-op
says they stock asparagus from Thailand &
...
From conversations to broadcasts
• Modified retweets are broadcasts of
conversational snippets disseminated to millions,
n...
Conclusions
Corporations and Celebrities
• Promote visibility of identity
through #
• Individuate company names or
celebri...
Participatory culture and/or linguistic
market?
• Although Twitter allows apparently direct access
to corporations and cel...
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Study of self branding and micro-celebrity in Twitter presented at De Montfort University, November 2011.

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Self branding and_micro-celebrity_in_twitter

  1. 1. Self branding and micro-celebrity in Twitter Dr Ruth Page University of Leicester rep22@le.ac.uk
  2. 2. Social Media Statistics: Participatory culture (Jenkins 1992, 2006)? • By 2007, over 70 million blogs were indexed in the blogosphere. • In 2010, Facebook’s membership exceeded 500 million active users. • In 2011, Twitter reported that over 140 million tweets were being posted each day. • More video content is uploaded to YouTube in a 60 day period than the 3 major American TV networks produced in 60 years.
  3. 3. Virtual ‘Linguistic Markets’ (Bourdieu 1977)
  4. 4. Self branding and micro-celebrity • Discursive view of identity and interaction (e.g. Bamberg et al 2006) • Identity to be produced for consumption by others (Marwick 2010) • Interaction is designed to develop and maintain a fan base (Senft 2008) • Audience is managed through affiliative techniques (Marwick and boyd 2011)
  5. 5. Visibility and Attention
  6. 6. Research Questions • What are the linguistic practices which are used in self-branding and micro-celebrity? • Are they used in the same way by all participant groups? • What does this tell us about Twitter as a linguistic market?
  7. 7. Twitter 101
  8. 8. Types of Tweet
  9. 9. #Hashtags in Twitter • Originated as search terms used by updaters – Folksonomy • Aggregate tweets about a particular topic or event (#scd, #xfactor, #occupy, #Libya) • Idiomatic uses – Internet memes (#fail) – One-off creative expressions (#bbcwhatareyou) • Hashtags increase visibility via trending topics
  10. 10. Previous research on #hashtags • Diffusion across the Twitter network (Huang et al. 2010) • As a response to television events (Anstead and O’Loughlin 2010) • Backchannel at events (Reinhardt et al 2009) • Conversational tagging (Honeycutt and Herring 2009) • Searchable talk (Zappavigna 2011)
  11. 11. But... • What kinds of identities are signalled through hashtags? • What kinds of interactions provide the co-text for the hashtag? • Is this really conversational?
  12. 12. Data sample • 100 publically available Twitter accounts – 40 corporations – 30 celebrity practitioners – 30 ‘ordinary’ accounts • 90, 392 Tweets
  13. 13. Corporations • travel: – @bluejet, @luxorlv, @southwestair, @british_airways, @londonmidland, @connectbyhertz, @carnivalcruise • entertainment: – @directv, @marvel, @travelchannel, @tvguide • charities: – @redcross, @92Y • food: – @sainsburys, @waitroseuk, @tastidelite, @popeyeschicken, @starbucks, @dunkindonuts, @wholefoods, @uktesco, @dunkindonuts • technology: – @emccorp, @itunesmusic, @dellcares, @costcomcares • finance: – @hoover, @hrblock, @zappos, @wachovia, @intuit • sport: – @chargers, @chicagobulls • retail: – @selfridges, @americanapparel, @karenmillen, @reiss, @marksandspencer, @rubbermaid, @johnlewisretail.
  14. 14. Celebrities • Britney Spears, Ellen de Generes, Ladygaga, Oprah Winfrey, Demi Moore, Lilly Allen, Paris Hilton, Sarah Brown, Dita von Teese, Holly Willoughby, Dannii Minogue, Mischa Barton, Amanda Holden, Amy Lee, Katherine Jenkins • Ashton Kutcher, Jimmy Fallon, Shaquille O’neill, Lance Armstrong, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stephen Fry, Dave Matthews, Jonathan Ross, Jamie Oliver, John Cleese, Philip Schofield, William Shatner, Andy Murray, Charlie Brookner, Boris Johnson
  15. 15. Types of tweet (as a %)
  16. 16. Relative frequency of hashtags in updates 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 14000 16000 18000 celebrity ordinary' corporate Relativefrequency(permillionwords) Types of account Series1
  17. 17. Topic-based or evaluative tags (as a % of all hashtags for each group) 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% corporate celebrity ordinary Topic based # Evaluative #
  18. 18. Most frequent topic-based hashtags (relative frequency per million words)
  19. 19. General observations • ‘Ordinary’ accounts – Politics (#ge2010), sport (#cricket, #rugby), entertainment (#eurovision, #leadersdebate), events (#twestival, #likeminds) • Corporations – company name or field of expertise (#emc, #rubbermaid, #sales) • Celebrities – performances (#foodrevolution, #fallonmono) or products (#projectd), and charity events (#rewirepeace, #iwd)
  20. 20. Individuation and Affiliation
  21. 21. Hashtags, identity and affiliation • Companies individuate their identity – Company names #EMC, #rubbermaid, #Chargers • ‘Ordinary’ accounts signal affiliation within a professional field – #law, #realbread, #synod • Companies and celebrities emphasise their roles as cultural producers • ‘Ordinary’ accounts make visible their role as engaged consumers of products (TV shows)
  22. 22. Hashtags and Speech Functions 0.0% 20.0% 40.0% 60.0% 80.0% 100.0% 120.0% celebrity corporate ordinary information goods and service
  23. 23. Grammatical Context of Hashtags
  24. 24. Declaratives: Broadcast breaking news • #EMC Blogger Report is out! http://bit.ly/i5Mo9V Top stories today via @storagezilla @michelleflynn @chuckhollis @sakacc – EMCcorp, Mon, 13 Jun 2011 18:03 • #EMC cements in lead as #storage market grows http://t.co/HRg95jw /via @ZDnetUK – EMCcorp, Tue, 07 Jun 2011 18:31
  25. 25. Imperatives: encourage engagement • #FOODREVOLUTION ARMY!! 2 your battle stations. SIGN the petition http://bit.ly/JOfoodrev Please POST ths ON yr FACEBOOK & RT. – Jamie Oliver, Thu, 22 Apr 2010 06:31 • HI GUYS enjoy the show tonight see the kids of America make a difference #FoodRevolution 8pm till 10pm ABC USA nice one jamieox – Jamie Oliver, Fri, 09 Apr 2010 22:47
  26. 26. Questions: Audience Response • What is an illegal "imNigrant" Gordon?? #leadersdebate – Thu, 22 Apr 2010 20:17 • Darn, I am falling asleep. Anyone else bored and tired by it all? #leadersdebate – Thu, 29 Apr 2010 20:49 • I'm asian and female -how come I haven't met DC this week? #LeadersDebate – Thu, 15 Apr 2010 20:58
  27. 27. Conversational tagging? • Hashtags used to promote visibility in updates 10 times more frequently than in addressed messages • Talking about something is not the same as talking with someone • Ambient affiliation is non-reciprocal – Using a hashtag to make the tweet (and hence the tweeter) visible, does not mean that the tweeter will also search for new people to follow too.
  28. 28. Synthetic Personalisation (Fairclough 1989) ‘a compensatory tendency to give the impression of treating each of the people handled ‘en masse’ individually’ (p.62) • Personalization – Terms of address – Positioning/alignment – Positive politeness • Synthetic in so far as this is not genuine, but maintains distribution of power in discourse
  29. 29. Modified Retweets • When one member forwards a message from someone else to all their ‘followers’ • Reconfigures email forwarding • Involves two participants – Original author – Person who forwards + adds new material • Turn-taking represented in reverse order – [Retweeter’s comment] RT [original message]
  30. 30. An example
  31. 31. Distribution of modified retweets 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 Celebrity Corporate Ordinary
  32. 32. Material added by celebrities • Typically, added material is an evaluative assessment – Outraged. RT @Laurapalooza: Staff at the MEN aren't letting people into the arena with cans in their hair. So many sad Little Monsters :( – Lady gaga: Wed, 02 Jun 2010 • Used to express stance towards reported events • Or alignment with the original tweeter – That is SO you! :-) RT @fifi_box: locked myself out, credit cards cancelled, flat tyre now my phone just died...someone please put the voodoo doll down!! – DanniiMinogue: Wed, 28 April 2010
  33. 33. Material added by corporations • Good idea! You can also recycle them! RT @aplusmhs: @OrganizeAtlanta @Rubbermaid we put our shreddings in the compost #rubbermaid – Rubbermaid, Tue, 11 Jan 2011 16:45 • CONGRATS! RT @David_Strebel Just passed the #EMC ISM exam. First EMC exam under my belt – EMC Corp, Tue, 01 Mar 2011 21:09
  34. 34. Reinforcing positive endorsement • Thanks very much! RT @comedyfoodgirl I love @WaitroseUK Brilliant choice, they're the supermarket who treat farmers properly – WaitroseUK, Mon, 28 Mar 2011 13:16 • Glad we could help! RT @danimyersPR: Thanks @RedCross for free lunch and water while I was cleaning up the mess from the #Sedalia #Tornado! – Redcross, Fri, 27 May 2011 19:08
  35. 35. Material added by ‘ordinary’ updaters • Oh joy. RT @robmacpherson lady in co-op says they stock asparagus from Thailand & Peru because the conditions there are better #seasonalfood • #Fail RT @sbuxRYRY @nickolaimathews working every night all weekend!! • What a pile of shite!!! RT @tom_watson: [Daily Mail Alert] Cam the comeback Kid: http://bit.ly/a1eLys
  36. 36. From conversations to broadcasts • Modified retweets are broadcasts of conversational snippets disseminated to millions, not dyadic turns between peers • Simulates solidarity rather than creating it: A return to mass broadcasting, not participation • A strategy of containment, which acknowledges the power of the Twitter audience but uses this to shore up the hierarchy of mainstream celebrity as elite persons
  37. 37. Conclusions Corporations and Celebrities • Promote visibility of identity through # • Individuate company names or celebrity products made visible by hashtags • Use declarative and imperative forms to broadcast news and encourage audience interaction • Use synthetic personalisation to project positive affiliation with audience ‘Ordinary’ updaters • Affiliate with topics of general interest in Twitter • Affiliate with fields of professional expertise • Use questions to interact with other audience members • Employ a range of evaluation which critique as well as aligns with RT messages
  38. 38. Participatory culture and/or linguistic market? • Although Twitter allows apparently direct access to corporations and celebrity practitioners, this does not erode offline hierarchies based on status and economic power • Audiences may be participatory but they are still positioned as audiences • Interaction takes place, but this is not always conversational, may be non-reciprocal or shaped by synthetic personalization
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