I've long thought that at the intersection of Twitter and celebrities lies trouble.
Six months ago I asked if celebrities were ruining Twitter. But, turns out it may be Twitter that is wreaking havoc on celebs. Or, to phrase it another way, it's Twitter that's profited (from what must surely be millions of dollars in free publicity) while celebs have variously displayed an inability to spell, revealed outsized egos, publicly posted crazy rants and generally made themselves ideal candidates for parody.
Could it be someone -- either the celebs or agents working in their best interests -- have finally figured this out?
Will this week's desertion of Twitter by Miley Cyrus and Courtney Love be the leading edge of a coming mass exodus? Miley is rumored to have quit at the urging of suspected new boyfriend Liam Hemsworth and Courtney Love because of suit brought against her for calling fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir a "nasty lying hosebag thief." Lily Allen also quietly stepped away from the keyboard last month with this final post: "I am a neo-luddite, goodbye."
Not everyone, it turns out, can be an Ashton Kutcher, who rode the Twitter wave back into some kind of relevancy. Hey, that movie career may not be working out, but the man has 3,812,622 followers. But, as detailed in this Daily Beast piece, at least one PR agency is capitalizing on Twitter's buzz-building potential by offering celebrity clients lessons in social networking savvy:
Whereas once, aspiring actors were trained in poise, dance, and singing, now stars looking to make a mark are taught the valuable art of communicating in 140 characters or less. ID PR—which masterminded the Pee-wee media campaign—offers a presentation known euphemistically as Twitter boot camp to its roster of A-list clients, including Ben Stiller and Natalie Portman.
But celebrity Twitter accounts run through a PR filter tend to read like infomercials rather than an intimate conversation or peek behind the curtain -- which is what we really want, right? To wit, William Shatner seems to confine his tweets to promoting upcoming personal appearances ("I'll be appearing at Dragon con over the next couple days.") Maybe that's why the man only has a touch over 120,000 followers. And, in a big-time PR backfire, Hugh Jackman was busted last year when fans found out an employee, and not Jackman himself, was actually posting to his account. Jackman's feed has been dormant since May, when he was rushing around to promote his then-new film "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."
And his isn't the only celeb account that hasn't been updated in months (I'm looking at you, Larry David). Not an ideal fan experience for those of us just waiting for LD to drop some funny.
Still, virtual silence might be a welcome change for publicists saddled with mitigating the damage done by their tweeting clients. Transgressions ranging from accusing one's boyfriend of assault or threatening to commit suicide (Tila Tequila) to engaging in a petty war of words with another boldface name (Spencer Pratt) leave a lasting impression and can undo years of careful image building.
Said one publicist to the L.A. Times:
"Twitter can be enormously valuable as a branding tool. But like everything else, it's a double-edged sword, and if you have impulse control problems -- which strangely a lot of celebrities seem to have -- it can be very dangerous."
Will studios, talent agencies and public relations gurus get wise and start contractually limiting celebrity social network interactions? Should they? Weigh in below.