The microcelebrity and YouTube
I was watching American Idol the other night. I was flicking through the channels on my way to Law and Order and stumbled across this sorry dude who was on his way into an audition. All he wanted was “to be famous”, he blurted out to the intrusive camera following his every nervous move. To have people utter his name in awed whispers and to win Grammy awards is his dream. Well, I like a person with ambition but strikes me that we’re in the grip of the era of the microcelebrity. I know some people who are “camera-ready” just in case they end up on YouTube. They announce their glittering social activities on Facebook and post photos of themselves in various states of inebriation from the latest party attended. I mean honestly: does anyone really care?
In a recent Wired article, Clive Thompson sniffed out what it means to be a microcelebrity starting off with the humble blogger. Unless you’re Boing Boing or some other top dog blog, you probably have a few hundred die-hard fans who regularly read your blog – this makes you a microcelebrity. Known to a few, not millions. These few might discuss you, look at your photos on Flickr, Twitter about you and know more about you than you might think. Because blogging is so deeply personal, we reveal snippets about ourselves here, a large chunk there. A blogger’s personality can’t help but shine through.
Some people don’t care if they’re talked about or criticised. Others, like me, remain cautious about what we say or dislike being caught on a video in case it is plastered all over YouTube (I’m told there is one of me on YouTube but I’m too scared to look!). Last year at an overseas conference, I was well aware that a live-blogger was in the audience, so I chose my words carefully during my conference session just in case I was misquoted or my words were taken out of context. But others don’t give a toss.
It’s all about managing your own identity, your brand. YouTube gives us the opportunity to be our own media channel. Facebook provides an opportunity to manage how much of our personal identity we reveal. It provides us with a venue for erecting a false facade about ourselves – I really have a boring life, but hey, look at my thousands of friends and what I’m doing this weekend.
But what I do find curious about today’s Brand Me culture is the number of people who believe they have talent or who truly think that other people give a hoot about what they are doing socially. I know all the arguments about young people engaging with social networks and that old timers are well…old and don’t get it. And I guess you’re becoming a crusty old fossil when you say things like “in my day, people just lived an anonymous life, got on with it and never really desired to be famous or adored”.
Just in case you yearn for worldwide fame and adoration, I’ve come across this interesting resource: How to Become Popular on YouTube Without Any Talent by Kevin Nalts. Nalts describes himself as a “viral video genius” and a YouTube “weblebrity”, with 20 million views of his more than 550 online videos. His free ebook will give you proven strategies and insider secrets to developing a following on YouTube.
I have to admit I’ve never yearned for a following on YouTube, but there are some handy hints about things to avoid. A major trick to avoid if you want a following is….gasp, wait for it….avoid blatant self-promotion. Well, I must say this would take out about 99% of all people out there as blogs, YouTube, Facebook and so on are all about me, the individual, promoting me The Brand. But a quick scan of the ebook does highlight some useful marketing techniques: stick to your brand, package your video, aim for the big finish, topicality drives views.
Okay, so I’m not sure what on earth I’d pop up onto YouTube. I can’t imagine anyone would be interested in me droning on about Knowledge Management (although sadly I think that’s what the YouTube video of me does in fact do!) or yapping on about privacy. LOLCats is covered, so can’t do that. Conspiracy theorists abound on YouTube, so that genre is covered. Oh well, guess I’ll just keep blogging and be content with my fan base of 2 people. And before my email becomes clogged up with my favourite 18-year old gamer once again taking issue with me – yes, I know, I have a blog, therefore I’m a microcelebrity (in my own mind anyway!) and I’m quite happy to keep it at that 🙂