Perez for President

Hard work pays off. Just look at celebrity blogger, Perez Hilton. Named by Forbes Magazine as the #1 Web Celeb for 2007, 2008 and 2009, Hilton is one of the most relevant examples of how social media, if used for what it’s worth, fosters effective personal branding. Hilton’s social media use has generated enough exposure for himself that he not only does he have a full time job, but he is also frequently presented with several other job opportunities as well.

Hilton’s claim to fame comes from his bold, scandalous Hollywood gossip blog. His vibrant personality paired with his outspoken nature has created a following, a community, around himself and his work. His apparent success has networks like Oxygen and E! calling to offer positions such as reality show host and fashion commentator. Perez is being paid to just be him, the goal of any self-brander.

Like any smart social media guru, Hilton recognizes the many communities in which he thrives. Last fall, devastating news rocked the gay community after the world learned of consecutive gay teen suicides that were prompted by peer bullying. Hilton, a homosexual himself, chose to stand at the forefront. The celeb blogger, emotionally moved by the tragic events, vowed to stop bullying himself. The vow was attention grabbing amongst the blogging community for Hilton’s trademark was his cutthroat analyzing. The change of attitude did not slow Hilton down in his devotion to the cause online.

Using his resources as a popular blogger, he has helped promote the campaign, “It Gets Better.” The campaign is a viral effort to help raise awareness and help stop suicide among homosexual teens. Hilton’s role in the campaign not only displays his values, but it also reveals a multidimensional layer to the blogger. This level of personality helps audiences emotionally connect better with the brand (in this case, the brand being Hilton). It is the idea of connectedness. It is through this connection that Hilton is able to engage his audience in order to distribute information and provoke organic arousal of the subject. More specifically, it could be in the form of a retweet on Twitter or a shared video on Facebook.

Video plays a huge role in the success of this campaign. The emotional appeal granted by the combined elements of sound and sight truly triggers a sense of obligation within the viewer. This ripple effect, facilitated by YouTube, had famous figures such as President Barack Obama, Anne Hathaway, Ellen DeGeneres and the staffs of Google and Facebook (just to name a few) making their own videos to support the cause. The response is extraordinary and the exposure of the cause is phenomenal. Before the birth of YouTube, would this even have been possible?

Hilton is the perfect example of a self-branded professional in the 21st century. It is undeniable to admit that Hilton could not have done what he has done without the capabilities of Web 2.0. Through his blog, YouTube channel, Twitter and Facebook page, Hilton is able to leave an effective and frequent impression on his audience, something that was not guaranteed with traditional media. Thanks to two-way conversation and online interaction, Hilton is able to cause a stir and get people talking.

“Real Men” of Social Media

An established model, actor, producer and venture capitalist, Ashton Kutcher has become a powerful businessman with an aggressive attitude. He is far from dumb. Like all successful, well-rounded individuals, Kutcher practices social responsibility. Partnered with his wife, Demi Moore, Kutcher has tapped into his vessel of connections to help create awareness on the issue of human trafficking.  He has hired fellow entertainers such as Drake, Justin Timberlake and Sean Penn to participate in the viral campaign, “Real Men Don’t Buy Women.” The normally goofy actor has audiences raising more than just their eyebrows with his campaign. Concerns and doubt have risen among various groups, especially New York news source, The Village Voice, in regards to the factuality of Kutcher’s statistics.

The problem doesn’t lie with the cause, it lies in the presentation. The Voice claims Kutcher is presenting inflated figures. Kutcher, a well-connected personality (and brand) in social media, has rooted his “Real Men” campaign into the foundation of social media. The star uses Facebook, Quora and Twitter to promote the cause and YouTube to host the videos. According to the study of Corporate Social Responsibility in the Blogosphere, social media isn’t a bad venue for him to take. The study reveals that while some online forums are smaller in size, the participation level is much higher as compared to other forms of mass media in regards to CSR. It is the idea of quality over quantity and frankly, it’s an example of the long tail. Kutcher has called on his niche market of fans and followers to help promote awareness of his cause.

The star, according to Biography.com, was the first Twitter member to reach one million followers. Who can blame him for using Twitter to fight back? Kutcher has bluntly tweeted to the Voice not only in defense of his case, but also in offense of their argument.  The so-called Twitter feud continues not only in the hands of both parties, but also in the hands of many followers. Kutcher has leveraged his large fan following to indirectly generate an army of support.

A positive result of this petty argument comes from the attention Kutcher is drawing to himself. Using blunt and informal language (and all CAPITAL letters), the actor is causing a stir not only to his pages, but also to his videos and to his cause. Looking at the glass half full, any publicity is good publicity. In my opinion, while the claim made by Village Voice is legitimate, they lose credibility by taking cheap shots at the actor’s casting stereotype, claiming the “Real Men” videos are reminiscent of something out of a frat house. Therefore, my problem doesn’t lie in the cause; it lies in their presentation. It simply looks like they are just picking a fight just to be picking a fight. Some sources say the there is an underlying political motivation in the Voice’s strategy, but to any outside eye, it just looks childish. They certainly do not gain any respect in my book by writing an article titled, “Real Men Get Their Facts Straight.”

Kutcher is no fool for continuing his rant. With a current Twitter following of over 7 million people, Kutcher has all the ears he needs. Whether he is bashing the Voice or directly supporting his campaign, he is creating all the awareness he needs. Job well done.