Social commerce

Be gentle with the Informer today as it was the Awards last night and, as ever, it was a large one. Chatting to the lovely Lucy Porter, as you do, the Informer learned that, despite being a celeb of some renown, Porter rarely tweets.

December 5, 2014

4 Min Read
Social commerce

By The Informer

Be gentle with the Informer today as it was the Awards last night and, as ever, it was a large one. Chatting to the lovely Lucy Porter, as you do, the Informer learned that, despite being a celeb of some renown, Porter rarely tweets.

Grilled further on this social media negligence, Porter conceded that the risks seem to far outweigh the potential rewards. Yes, Twitter is an efficient way for a public figure such as a comedian to keep in touch with their audience, but it also seems to be the home of the most vindictive, vitriolic trolls on the internet. And that’s saying something.

Despite the fact that there are countless ways to establish the real identity of any Twitter user, people seem to think it affords some kind of anonymity, or at least insulates them from the consequences of their words. Thankfully the reality is sometimes quite different, like the story of the boxer who showed up outside the house of a troll, leading to an instant and unconditional capitulation on the part of the antagonist.

Then there are the twitter flame wars, which take traditional internet dogmatism to new heights. There are countless examples of people opting to conduct bitter disputes in public over Twitter, and when one of those protagonists is famous, that becomes news. Sometimes the dispute and the news become entangled, as is happening this week with the Sun newspaper targeting celebrity Russell Brand for some front page treatment and he responding over Twitter. The fact that all concerned choose to air their dirty linen in public implies the publicity generated may not be entirely unwelcome.

But Porter conceded she may have considered these risks worth taking if she felt Twitter may be of material professional assistance to her – namely enticing people to come to her gigs who otherwise wouldn’t. A few pieces of anecdotal evidence revealed that even glowing references from Twitter colossi such as Stephen Fry have minimal impact at the turnstile.

Where social media seems to be more useful is in expanding influence, which is the more professional, acceptable face of exhibitionism. Twitter seems to be the chosen distribution medium for campaigners such as Brand, although often he will be serving up links to his YouTube output, which offers a setting more suited to his loquacious talents.

Which brings us onto Zoella. This is the vlogger (video blogger) pseudonym for Zoe Sugg. Zoella publishes videos primarily about fashion and beauty apparently aimed at teenage girls and young women. According to the internet her main YouTube channel has 6.6 million subscribers, making it the 60th most popular channel in the world, and she also has 2.5 million followers on twitter and 3.5 million on Instagram.

It turns out this kind of influence translates to print too, as Sugg’s recently published first work of fiction has become the fastest selling book ever. Such is Zoella’s current popularity and momentum that she seems to emit a kind of influence halo and even minor association with her yields quantifiable influence.

While social media influence may yield minimal material reward to comedians, consumer brands seem to value it quite highly. This is due to a phenomenon discussed previously in this column, in which consumers largely discount overt marketing messages but are far more likely to be influenced by third parties they assume to be neutral and objective.

Zoella can presumably have a massive influence on the sales of eyelash thickeners, lip plumpers or imperfection concealers, and thus must surely be a strategic target of utmost significance to the marketing departments of companies like L’Oreal, Rimmel, Chanel and other companies ending in L. She could presumably make enough to retire on if she agreed to become and advocate, evangelist or brand-ambassador for any of these brands, but the Catch 22 is, as soon as she did so much of her appeal would surely be lost.

This is the tragedy faced by companies looking to exploit social media to sell stuff: the whole point is that it consists of millions of individuals spouting stream of consciousness dribble at each other. It’s intrinsically chaotic and therein lies the appeal; the ultimate shop window for all the perspectives, opinions and arguments of the world, which consumers of social media get to cherry-pick. Try to impose a message through social media, however, and you’re likely to turn punters off. Tricky.

Still, there’s always product placement. This week saw the announcement of new films from probably the two most commercially successful franchises of all time: Star Wars and James Bond. The product placement potential for Star Wars 7 (see teaser below) would seem to be limitless, although it’s hard to imagine Darth Vader applying eye-liner. For Bond however, the potential for fashion faux pas has already become apparent, with Bond actor Daniel Craig being pilloried on Twitter for wearing, of all things, a blue jumper.

Take care.

The Informer

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