A Different Perspective On Why (Some) Celebrities Ignore Their Followers On Twitter

This weekend, as if by magic, I happened to be sent leaked results showing the official UK Christmas top 40 countdown (sales and everything) before the chart went live.

This told me that Rage Against The Machine had, against the odds, and completely on the back of a heavily-hyped Facebook campaign, secured the coveted Christmas number one spot over X Factor winner Joe McElderry.

It was too late to put on a bet – God only knows what odds I would have received if I’d have marched into my local bookies and said, “Right, what will you give me if I make a guess at the top 40?” – and to be honest at first I was a little skeptical about whether the information was accurate. So, as the chart show aired, I monitored the results against what I had on my list.

It was complete accurate from #40-#25, so I decided to go live with it.

And I published the top twenty on my blog.

Not Twittercism – it didn’t really fit with my theme here and to be honest I wasn’t entirely sure of the ramifications of publishing such a leaked document. News is, however, news, and therefore fair game, so I went ahead and wrote about it on my Posterous blog.

I linked to the article on Twitter and Facebook, and continued to update the countdown as the results became available.

A Different Perspective On Why (Some) Celebrities Ignore Their Followers On Twitter

Not only was the list 100 per cent accurate from start to finish, but my article started to get some attention, too.

Ultimately, it went on to receive more than 50,000 views and 160 comments, most of which happened within an hour or so.

It was an interesting experience, and as I responded to comments made on the article and things I was sent on Twitter, it started to make me realise that, in my own small way, this must be what it feels like to be a celebrity who uses social media.

Now, I’m not for a second saying I am a celebrity – far from it – but simply that what I saw during the UK chart countdown must be like what the bigger celebrities on Twitter experience every single minute of every single day.

A couple of things really stuck out:

  • Comments – When lots and lots of people have the opportunity to post comments anonymously, some of them will act like morons. While most contributed to the article in the spirit with which it was intended, I had to delete about ten comments because they were racist or offensive.
  • Reply Spam – I’ve written about this before, but once the article started getting traction I began to receive lots and lots of reply spam, often multiple times at once (clearly from a series of accounts ran by the same person). All told I’ve had to block about 20 users. This is a serious problem, and I’ve yet to see Twitter address this in any meaningful way.

Reflecting on events today, I’ve realised that this may in some way explain why some celebrities seem a little aloof or even rude when it comes to responding to replies on Twitter. It’s certainly true that since the very early days of this blog I’ve ragged on a lot of celebrities for the way they behave on Twitter, but I might have been been a little short-sighted.

Because the amount of reply spam and offensive replies the top celebrities see likely matches or even outweighs the ‘normal’ replies they are sent, a lot of the genuine enquiries are likely getting lost in all that traffic. And after a while you’d imagine they’d be less likely to bother doing much more than dipping in and out of their mentions folder. After all, it’s going to take a lot of work to pick out the good from the bad.

If you auto-follow on Twitter, you’re likely inundated with spam direct messages like everybody else who has a similar policy. I have some experience of managing Twitter accounts for clients, and in those cases where the client has followed everybody back out of courtesy the direct message system becomes completely useless (even more so than it is the rest of the time). It’s a no-go area, because it’s almost futile to separate the spam from the genuine enquiries. Eventually, you stop bothering altogether. Which, while extreme, is understandable. And for businesses, very damaging.

Celebrities typically don’t follow a lot of folk so direct messages aren’t of much concern to them. But their replies folder must be absolutely jam-packed with spam, as well as the crazed ramblings of obsessed fans, stalkers and good old-fashioned weirdos.

Twitter is a fairly busy place if you follow a few hundred people and are followed by a few thousand, so God only knows what it’s like if you’re world-famous and have a couple of million people hanging on your every word.

Of course, some celebrites are just rude, or ignorant. But we should perhaps offer a little leniency to the rest of them because most of the time it must be absolutely overwhelming. Don’t believe me? Check out Ashton Kutcher’s inbox. Or Britney Spears’. Or Taylor Swift’s. Or Lady Gaga’s