Social media on the Internet started out for exactly that purpose: socializing. People express themselves and engage in dialog with others through sites like Facebook and Twitter. YouTube for video sharing; LinkedIn for professional networking; Google+; Myspace; Pinterest; the list goes on.
But social networking has morphed into much more than sharing pictures from your trip. It is now used for many commercial and professional purposes by businesses, organizations, institutions, governmental entities, politicians, officials and more. For celebrities, from actors to musicians to athletes to media personalities, social networking is becoming an increasingly important way to build relationships with fans, promote careers, cultivate images and market their “brands.”
The same holds true for organizations within the entertainment, media and sports industries like motion picture studios, television networks, Internet-based and e-commerce businesses, professional sports franchises, record labels and concert promoters who must also have public presences on social networks.
And the numbers support these efforts. The Financial Post reported in December 2012 that comScore learned that almost one-fifth of all online time is logged on social networking platforms.
A new profession
People are making groundbreaking careers out of the new phenomena of managing social media for others. In a recent interview on the Econsultancy website, Richard Jones of EngageSciences said that, “Essentially social marketing is about creating value from relationships … Frequency of engagement, rich content and attention to the needs of fans are the basic requisites to be successful.”
Firms gaining attention for social media management include theAudience, Crowd Factory, WhoSay, Digital Media Management, Sprinklr, Thismoment and others. Independent consultants are also getting into the business.
Why social media management is important
Social media managers provide a wide range of services for those in the entertainment, media and sports industries that may include:
- Continual monitoring for potentially damaging cyberspace chatter that could harm a celebrity’s reputation, image or brand is essential, as is determining appropriate responses.
- The Internet has become a venue for celebrity dialog with fans and this direct conversation can be carefully managed. However, the real voice of the celebrity needs to be heard to keep people’s attention, and the tone and content (written, visual and audio) must ring true and not contrived. Together the celebrity and social media manager must determine what the message will be.
- Social networking consultants must be sure everything is professionally done and attention is paid to important details like style, spelling and grammar.
- Social networking sites can be used for direct marketing and sales opportunities such as of movies, music, merchandise, tickets and more.
- Data, metrics and trends can be gathered, measured and analyzed.
Celebrity uses of social media are evolving and social media managers will likely continue to devise ever-smarter ways to promote their clients. Take the example of British actor Russell Brand as detailed in The New York Times, which reported that his social media management firm helped him plan where his live shows would be scheduled according to where his online fans live — an arguably brilliant use of never-before-available data derived from fan-base interaction through social media. The article also says that he has been able to sell out shows through social media without paying a dime for traditional advertising.
In other words, a celebrity’s social networking power is becoming a highly lucrative and rapidly growing component of his or her portfolio that already carries significant weight in how much he or she can obtain in negotiations for involvement in any entertainment or media endeavor, as what can be done by him or her in cyberspace could also financially benefit those with whom deals are made.
The role of a knowledgeable attorney
An entertainment attorney experienced in negotiating agreements with social media implications is swiftly becoming an absolute necessity when a person or company’s social media brand is at risk. And that is especially so when attempting to tailor fit a celebrity’s relationship with a social media management firm or an independent consultant. The terms of a social networking management agreement must be carefully drawn, particularly as such agreements pertain to fee or profit-sharing arrangements.
And since celebrities are not always immediately available for purposes of generating or approving instantaneous social network posts oftentimes demanded in the social media ecosystem, skilled legal counsel can also assist by devising contract provisions that determine how much control the celebrities themselves will have over what is posted as opposed to how much independent discretion their consultants will have to post.