×

‘Influencers’ turn on the Twitterverse

You don't need to be a star to get celeb perks

I don’t normally draw inspiration from Lady Gaga, but I was intrigued last week when she announced she had become “a student of the sociology of fame.”

Her timing is spot on. The “sociology of fame” is undergoing some fascinating convulsions of late. Indeed, several studies have prompted me to ask myself some basic questions: Am I fulfilling my potential as an “influencer”? Should I aspire to become the biggest twit on Twitalizer??

Let me explain: It seems there’s a growing herd of overcaffeinated people who are becoming instant celebrities through their activity on the social media. And companies are rewarding these so-called “influencers” with free products and exotic vacations.

The lesson: If you can’t star in a reality show, at least you can build your “personal brand” by tweeting every hour, stuffing your Facebook page with trivia and otherwise convincing marketers that you are “in traffic.”

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the array of social scorekeepers with names like Klout, PeerIndex and Twitalizer that rate influencers based on their activity on LinkedIn, Facebook and other sources, thus producing a sort of Standard & Poors rating of networking.

All this is further motivating the growing fraternity of networkers desperately building their personal brands. Insecure celebrities also are diving in — witness that mega-tweeter Britney Spears or the multitasking Ashton Kutcher. According to the Journal, Klout gave Spears an 87 rating and Lady Gaga a 90 (President Obama matched the 90 score).

None of these scores, to be sure, reflect such things as talent or affluence, but they curry favor among marketers trying to build buzz around their products.

That goes for movie tickets and more. A 28-year-old from Toronto named Casie Stewart earned a free flight to New Zealand fashion week as a result of her hyperactive blogging, according to the Journal. I’m not yearning for a glimpse of Auckland fashion but other social-media junkies are scoring free weekends in Las Vegas.

It’s easy to be snooty about all this, but the emergence of social scorekeepers on one level reflects the democratization of the new media. Anyone can aspire to be an influencer.

And if you really score big, you can even be like George W. Bush and become a “decider.”

Or a pop culture dynamo like Lady Gaga.

* * *

Talk about good timing: In the heat of the Oscar season there’s a new book that critiques the proliferation of awards in all sectors of our culture — even schools.

In “Everyone’s a Winner.” sociologist Joel Best suggests that the “self-congratulatory culture” may be getting carried away with itself.

It all starts in school, Best argues. Being a valedictorian was once unique, but now some high schools have multiple valedictorians.

Every type of award seems to have been subdivided: There are 12 distinct kinds of detective fiction awards handed out by the Mystery Writers of America.

In Hollywood, of course, five best picture nominees have now become 10 and there were more than 100 Grammys dispensed at that interminable kudos orgy.

Hollywood always wins, it seems, in the arena of self-congratulation.

Want to comment or suggest a column topic? Email peter.bart@variety.com

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Ballers HBO

    'Ballers' to End After Season 5 on HBO

    “Ballers” is coming to an end after five seasons on HBO. Star and executive producer Dwayne Johnson confirmed the news via an emotional Instagram video. “My heart is full of gratitude to all of you for rocking with us every season. You made us HBO’s highest rated comedy for years and most importantly, you helped [...]

  • Sublime Primetime

    How Emmy-Nominated Writers’ Rooms Keep Politics in Mind

    In a world filled with elections, social movements and national tragedies, how open should the doors of a writers’ room actually be? For some of this year’s Emmy-nominated shows, those doors are wide open. Before the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on Sept. 22, the Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild Foundation, [...]

  • Disney Villains Series 'Book of Enchantment'

    'Book of Enchantment' Series Based on Iconic Disney Villains Shelved at Disney Plus

    Disney Plus has decided to not move forward with “Book of Enchantment,” a series based on some of Disney’s most iconic villains, Variety has learned from sources. The news comes the day before Disney is set to unveil its streaming service at the biannual D23 convention in Anaheim. The prospective project was based on the [...]

  • ITV STUDIOS PRESENTS VERAFILM 2Pictured: BRENDA

    Brenda Blethyn to Star in New ITV Sitcom 'Kate and Kolo'

    Oscar-nominated Brenda Blethyn is set to star in the new sitcom “Kate and Kolo” for ITV, the U.K. broadcaster announced at the Edinburgh TV Festival. Blethyn takes on the title role of Kate in the comedy alongside theater and film actor Jimmy Akingbola as Kolo. Blethyn is a popular star with ITV audiences after having [...]

  • Sean Spicer Emmys

    Sean Spicer's Casting Explained? Red States Love 'Dancing With the Stars'

    ABC faced backlash this week after casting former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on “Dancing with the Stars.” But that outrage might actually spice up the dancing competition’s dwindling ratings — particularly in Trump Country. “Dancing with the Stars” has faced a relatively alarming decline in ratings over the past two cycles, falling 32% [...]

  • Peppa Pig

    Hasbro Acquires Entertainment One in $4 Billion All-Cash Deal

    Toymaker Hasbro is acquiring studio Entertainment One in an all-cash transaction valued at $4 billion, bringing My Little Pony and Nerf under the same umbrella as “Peppa Pig” and “PJ Masks” and furthering Hasbro’s growth goals in the infant and preschool categories. Hasbro aims to expand its operations in film and TV. Entertainment One’s production [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content