We all know that celebrities have an enormous influence on social media.
Some of the most followed people on Twitter include Katy Perry (over 52 million followers), Justin Bieber (almost 51 million), President Obama (over 42 million) and Lady Gaga (over 41 million) (view the ‘Twitter Top 100: Most Followers’ list here) and a brand can benefit from incredible exposure if a famous person tweets about them.
But brands must be careful when trying to gain exposure off the back of popular celebrities.
Last week, the movie star Katherine Heigl (star of 27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth and The Big Wedding) filed a $6 million lawsuit against the drug store chain, Duane Reade, for tweeting a paparazzi image of her carrying two Duane Reade shopping bags, along with the following text: “Love a quick #DuaneReade run? Even @KatieHeigl can’t resist shopping #NYC’s favorite drugstore.”
The complaint stated that Duane Reade “misused and misappropriated the photograph for its own commercial advertising, distributing the photo with Duane Reade’s own promotion slogans on its Twitter and Facebook accounts, all without Ms. Heigl’s knowledge or approval.”
This might initially appear outrageous… Why should someone who lives their life in the public eye expect privacy in this way?! However, it could be argued that in its tweet, Duane Reade falsely presented Heigl as a paid celebrity endorser – despite the fact that she wasn’t receiving any compensation for the use of her photograph in this way.
It will be interesting to see the verdict of this lawsuit and what it means for social media marketers. In the meantime, the Heigl incident is an important reminder to think carefully before tying celebrities into your social media content.
A safe way to gain exposure through celebrities on Twitter could be by attempting to have the right kind of conversation with them. If social media managers are timely and think carefully about the wording of their tweets, it is possible to grab the attention of influential tweeters. The Pharrell and Arby’s exchange during the Grammys 2014 is a great example: