Internet celebrities: What about reciprocity?

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What is an internet celebrity? I guess you call internet celebrities to whoever has a large social media following, correct? These people are usually leaders in their communities (online and offline), respected voices on specific topics (especially technology), founders of well-known startups, high-profile angel investors, and on and on. What gives them the title of internet celebrities is the fact that many of us want to hear what they have to say, what they are doing, who are they talking about and thus we follow them in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, subscribe to their blogs, etc… We, the internet nobodies make them into internet celebrities because we cannot stop following them, re-tweeting their tweets, participate by commenting in their blogs and sometimes even buy their products, services or tickets to events where they participate. All of that is good, we usually follow these people because we are truly interested in their expertise on certain topics, we want to get their insights, we want to know how they achieved success in their professional lives, we follow them because they have achieved some sort of success and everyone wants to be around successful people, and sometimes we want their attention as well.

I recently read a blog post by Jason Cohen (@asmartbear) about how to get attention from such internet celebrities and the points he makes are that to get these people’s attention (including himself) you need to think about and be respectful of their time, understood. We are all busy right? even if you are not an internet personality I am sure none of us has the time to respond to emails or Tweets from people we don’t know, we get it. Jason’s blog post then goes into explaining how and when you should make contact with an internet celebrity, for example if you want an internet celebrity to help spread the word about something you should first think if what you have is appropriate to them, then you need to craft your “request” so it does not become a job to them, make it as easy as possible for this person to just copy-paste and submit your Tweet. This is good advice. However, Jason writes, you need to do your job and figure out what will make the internet celebrity personally interested in your request. He points out a clear example of a request from someone who will make him personally interested, something like the following is something he will do in a heartbeat:

“I know you do a podcast with startup advice.  I have 7 companies here I think you’d find interesting, and they all need advice! Could we schedule a podcast episode just for our accelerator group?  It would take two hours, but I think it would be fun for everyone.”

Jason offers more specific examples in his blog post, you can read them all here…

When a person reaches a certain number of Twitter followers and/or a large number of subscribers in their blogs, it becomes really hard for them to reply to all requests from people who don’t have or have not reached the same “internet celebrity status” that they have. I guess it means for the most part that if you don’t have a large following base then you are probably not an interesting person, or perhaps not successful enough to spark interest from them, sad but true.

There are many spammer-like people on the internet, trolls and the like. Most of us aren’t, and most of us follow these internet celebrities because we care about their knowledge and expertise on topics that we care about. The “rules” and advice that Jason Cohen writes in his blog about getting attention from internet celebrities should not apply to real people who are truly interested in their opinion, and that perhaps have contributed to their “internet celebrity” status as well. If you pay attention to his blog post, Jason does not apply those rules to people who participate in his blog or Twitter feed, he gets it. Unfortunately, some internet celebrities only interact with other internet celebrities and pay little attention or none to their followers or active blog subscribers.

The advice that Jason Cohen offers in his blog post is fair and well intended, but he is missing on one really important point, people that are nobodies on the internet today, might well be very interesting people offline and perhaps become “someone” on the internet tomorrow. People who perhaps are not too engaged with an internet celebrity but care about their honest opinion might be worth paying attention to, even if they are not common participants of the internet celebrity’s online world. In the end, it is really easy to filter spammer-like requests from an email or tweet by someone who is only looking for some advice or help of some sort.

To be fair, Jason also makes a clear point about people who he recognizes from his blog comments or from Twitter interactions, he does make an exception and engages with people who are truly engaged with his blog or in Twitter, as he put it:

When I get email from someone I recognize from blog comments or Twitter interactions, I almost always help out with advice, spreading the word, anything. Because we’re engaged.

Reciprocity, that is the word. This is the first thing that came to mind after I read Jason’s blog post. I was happy to read, almost at the end of his blog post, that he will pay attention to those people who are engaged with him online. I agree and expanded on it a bit by adding a comment on his blog:

What about reciprocity? internet celebrities have thousands of followers, subscribers, etc… however, there is always that smaller group that participates in their Twitter feed by adding comments, re-tweeting  and participating with good comments on their blogs… shouldn’t these internet celebrities take the one minute it might take to do a re-tweet or perhaps 5 minutes replying to an email when one of these people who clearly are not just their followers but are also participants and the cause many of these people are such internet celebrities in the first place, just a thought.

Apparently there have been studies that show that people who follow a celebrity online are more likely to be engaged with a brand online and to even become customers of such people and brands…

U.S. adult Internet users who follow a celebrity on a social networking site are four times more likely to follow a brand than the average American Internet user.

The above is a statement from The Nielsen Company study about people who follow celebrities online and how they are 4 times more likely to follow a brand than the average American internet user. This is good for business and internet celebrities should start paying attention to us as well. Nielsen’s study also reveals that about 64% of those people who follow internet celebrities are about 18% more likely to purchase items online, 86% more likely to comment or post on social networking sites, 83% more likely to view consumer generated online video content, 67% more likely to visit social networking sites, and 45% more likely to play online games. This is very telling, according to this study we matter, and we do because we are more likely to comment on these internet celebrities’ blogs, we are more likely to re-tweet their tweets and we are more likely to purchase their product or service than the average American internet user.

Internet celebrities:

Your internet celebrity isn’t worth shit if you’re an asshole. If you have 60,000  Twitter followers and 1 million people like your Facebook page, and you think you’re entitled to anything, you’re crazy. Thank the people who re-tweet your stuff and engage with them when they try to engage with you, anyone posting on your blog and/or following you in Twitter are worthy of a reply when they ask you for a re-tweet to help spread the word about something they care about. Perhaps (internet celebrity) you should also follow Jason Cohen’s example and advice. Reciprocity. Enough said.

Comments on "Internet celebrities: What about reciprocity?"


  1. Dharmesh Shah

    I see your point.

    I’m not a celebrity yet, but my personal challenge is not so much filtering out the pure spammers (that’s easy to do — I can smell them a mile away), but that even requests from the great people with good intent are just too numerous to do them all justice. Also, it comes down to prioritization. I can hardly make time for entrepreneurs that I’m invested in or somehow associated with. So, though I would *love* to be able to engage with all those that reach out, it’s simply not physically possible to do so. (Hence, my article).

  2. Ricardo

    Thank you for your comment Dharmesh. You are also one of the few people who I know takes the time to reach out and listen to or help a fellow developer or entrepreneur, even if you don’t know them personally – IF your schedule allows it. Cheers.


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