The fuss over whether or not Stephen Fry owns his own Twitter account (to save you reading the debate – he does) started me thinking: does it really matter whether a celebrity or public figure is sending their own messages over Twitter?
I don’t think it does. But before Twitter purists get all hot under the collar, I think that the key here is honesty. Barack Obama’s example of using social media and Twitter to galvanise voters is extraordinary (but I wouldn’t expect him to be Tweeting all the way through a G8 meeting. I’d rather he focused on saving the world, to be honest). To date, he has 314,000 followers, and ‘follows’ nearly the same number. On that basis alone, I think most people would accept – even prefer – that he has a team to run all his communications, including his Twitter account.
It really depends on the reasons for setting up a Twitter account. For politicians, it might be to impart news and policy changes, which could credibly be done by somebody in their office. But there are a growing number of celebrities on Twitter – notably Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross in the UK – who use it to give the rest of us a peak into their daily lives that we wouldn’t otherwise have. The Kutchers (Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher) used Twitpic to post live updates of them at the Oscars on Sunday http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/23/twittering-celebrities-take-fans-backstage-in-their-lives/ – a very personal glimpse into their world.
Twitter puts celebrities within reach of ordinary people, in a way that gossip columns, TV shows and paparazzi shots can’t do. Celebrities who want to create that kind of intimacy with their fans do so on trust that they are who they say they are. To fake it (and be discovered) could damage the trust placed in celebrities by their fans – as though they have been revealed as an imposter. Much better would be to appoint someone close to them, such as a personal assistant, to Tweet their view of the celebs world. It still offers the ‘window on the world’ to fans, but is a much more honest approach than faking it.