‘Forbes’ List Wavers Between Popularity and Influence

What a week for Gaga, eh? She’s seemingly been everywhere, even on the farm. And now she sits atop the Forbes Celebrity 100  list, pushing Queen Oprah to number two.

“Gaga is there not just because of the $90 million she earned with a monster tour, but also because of her 32 million Facebook fans and 10 million Twitter followers–aka Little Monsters–who helped move 1 million digital downloads of her recent single ‘Born This Way’ in only five days,” the magazine writes.

The magazine goes on to say that Oprah can take a social media lesson from Justin Bieber in the number three spot.

The rest of the list seems to go this way; a hodgepodge of people who are given credit or penalized for whatever level of social media notoriety they’ve been able to attain.

According to Forbes, the list takes a look at everyone across entertainment, sports, media, etc. and measures “entertainment-related earnings and media visibility,” which includes both traditional and online media, as well as “social media power by looking at each celebrity’s presence on Facebook and Twitter.” That “social media power” or “presence” isn’t defined any further.

But on the list at number four are U2, a band that isn’t known for a social media presence, and at number six is Tiger Woods, who the accompanying article acknowledges hasn’t won a golf tournament recently, but still gets millions for appearances and collects on his “remaining sponsors, Nike and Electronic Arts.”

Overall, the list strikes us as knitted together by Forbes‘ gut feelings. Some people sell a lot of stuff, some are getting a lot of press. Some are more savvy about how they use social media, others are on the list by association, i.e. the group Muse who was on the soundtrack for all three Twilight films, but probably has zero name recognition with an overwhelming segment of the population, including the people who have seen all three Twilight films.

Forbes has been doing the list since 1999, and in that time, the explosion in social media use has made any celebrity index a jumble. The “popular vs. influential” question still hasn’t been answered.

But since this is an annual benchmark, it might be useful to more clearly define how “social media power” is determined. By sheer number, Gaga is on top. But back in February, Lil Wayne asked people to like him and stomped all over Oreo’s Guinness record book aspirations by getting 200,000 “likes” in an hour. Weezy is number 85 on the list, but that sounds pretty powerful.

Coming in at number 42, former Real Housewife and current Skinnygirl Bethenny Frankel has an interesting feature story that very well explains how she mixes marketing and brand building with the growing sales of her growing lines of products. Talking about the brands she launches through partnerships, she says, “They’re the expert, the formulator, manufacturer. I’m the marketer, the media person, the face–and we each know our roles.”

And since women are on top of the list, and because it’s becoming a true statement (France’s finance minister Christine Lagarde may become the first female IMF chief), we’re going to give a shout out to Beyoncé (number 29) and her new video.