The Celebrity Twitter Ecosystem
By JOHN METCALFE
New York Times
Published: March 27, 2009
HONESTLY, does anyone care that Martha Stewart has a blog supposedly written by her French bulldogs, Francesca and Sharkey?
Snoop Dogg might, perhaps, because Ms. Stewart recently sent him a Twitter message urging him to visit “The Daily Wag.” “Yo Snoop,” she wrote, “check out MY doggies’ new doggie blog.”
Tha Doggfather received this dubious shout-out because Ms. Stewart follows him on Twitter — “following” being Twitterspeak for signing up to get someone’s musings delivered directly to your cellphone or computer. She is also following P. Diddy, Rachel Maddow and Jimmy Fallon and, in turn, is followed by Michael Phelps, Jane Fonda and nearly 200,000 other people; they were all alerted on March 4, for instance, when she had lunch with Ludacris, whom she found “just charming” and who “loved lunch — esp. choc cake.”
That Ms. Stewart recently broke bread with the artist behind “Pimpin’ All Over the World” is just one of the many weird bits of trivia that can be gleaned about famous people on Twitter. There are at least a hundred well-known actors, singers, business magnates, politicians and writers using the service, and their chitchat — most of it authentically written by the stars themselves, according to interviews with them or their publicists — is available for anybody to see. (Not to obsess too much over Martha, but just the other day she welcomed Emeril Lagasse to Twitter, sending him a note that said, “i am still loving the etouffee you made yesterday.” O.K., yes, she did buy up most of his franchise last year, but there you go.)
What is the sound of celebrities tweeting? Well, it might be Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails notifying Dave Navarro, a musical collaborator who now plays for Jane’s Addiction, that he’s “hanging on the bus.” Or maybe it’s Ashton Kutcher and John Mayer comparing notes on being 31 years old (from John to Ashton: “Let’s open a hip new restaurant together. ‘31 club.’ Where it’s always standing room only. It will fail but we will have had fun.”).
Most celebrities let anybody follow them on Twitter, but are pickier about whom they follow themselves. Mr. Kutcher, for instance, in addition to following his wife (Demi Moore) and a stepdaughter (Rumer Willis), follows a mix of boldface names from different walks of life, including Evan Williams (a Twitter founder), Soleil Moon Frye (remember “Punky Brewster”?), Maria Shriver and Ellen DeGeneres. (The latter two are not shown on the already-too-crowded chart below.)
It seems that — just like the rest of us — celebrities enjoy hearing about other celebrities, and Twitter lets them participate in a giant cross-disciplinary mash-up of a conversation.
To the delight of many, some celebrities expose themselves on Twitter in a way you won’t see in Entertainment Weekly. “I love it when they don’t talk with their publicists before posting things,” said Mario Lavandeira, who is better known as the gossipmonger Perez Hilton, “like Solange Knowles talking about how she was taking a lot of Nyquil and then ended up passing out at the airport.” (Erykah Badu and Q-Tip were among 23,000 people who received Ms. Knowles’s increasingly distressed alerts on Feb. 17, which culminated a day later with the tweet: “Woaah ...How’d I end up in the hospital?”)
The accompanying chart shows a small and idiosyncratic sample of the celebrities who follow one another on Twitter. It represents a snapshot taken from March 18, and should be read with the caveat that allegiances can change quickly on Twitter (followers can drop follow-ees with a simple keystroke, and vice versa). Except for a few obvious fakes (Vladimir Putin), these accounts are all authentic, even if they might not seem like it.