I don’t believe Twitter was conceived as a tool for celebrities to voice their opinions and promote their latest moneymaking venture, but that seems to be what it has become. And I’m sick of it, quite frankly.
I know, I know, I can just unfollow the handful of celebrities I currently receive tweets from, but that’s not really the point. What is the point is that many of these celebrities are abusing Twitter for personal gain, and not actually using it to connect and interact with the fans whose love and admiration they not only seek but that they rely on to support their careers.
This feeling didn’t just materialize from nowhere, instead it was fostered in me by a chance encounter with Kevin Smith, director of Clerks, Chasing Amy, and Red State, and chief podcaster at his new Internet radio station, S.I.R. I have been a big fan of Smith for years, having bought all his films (even Cop Out), read his books, watched his Q&As and followed him on his website, blog, and forum. A bit stalkerish perhaps, but I like his style. Or at least I did.
I have become increasingly appalled by his updates on Twitter of late, especially as he hawked Red State and the launch of SModcast Internet Radio. It seems that 95 percent of his tweets are now self-promotion, with links to buy his merchandise, tickets to see his films in theaters, sites to stream his films over the Internet, or to listen to the latest live podcast. Even when he isn’t hawking himself and his products, he’s linking to other people he wants us to follow. It’s as though the man has acquired a form of Twitter Tourette’s.
I happened to mention this in passing on Twitter one day, making the fatal mistake of including @thatkevinsmith in the tweet, meaning he could see the tweet under @mentions. This immediately saw him retweet my comment with some added snark, and then block me. Which was nice.
Smith is the worst example of this new Twitter trend, but he isn’t alone. I guess Smith should get some credit for at least tweeting for himself rather than getting a publicist to do it for him. But then a publicist wouldn’t be able to deliver quite the level of self-promotion Smith manages on any given week.
Some promotion on Twitter is fine. Hell, I even do it myself, tweeting links to articles I have written, including this one, which will be making an appearance on Twitter immediately after it’s published. But that’s not all I do. I also try to throw out some interesting comments and links for all my 200+ followers (Smith has 1.8 million followers). Some celebrities seem to have forgotten the first rule of social media – people will only listen to you while you have something interesting to say.
Smith has built a cult following of people who will defend him to the hilt. And that’s fine. But he built that following by doing more than just pimping his latest product. A fact he seems to have forgotten somewhere along the line.
Twitter is an excellent tool for communication that has been hijacked by celebrities trying to sell themselves. Kind of like a ‘red-light district’ for famous people. Promote yourself and your latest book, film, TV show, album, interview, personal appearance, supermarket opening by all means, but do so as well as, rather than instead of, those personal, thoughtful tweets we actually want to read. Just don’t get too political or you’ll enter Bono from U2 territory, but that’s another argument for another day.