Giving 1 Million Followers a Purpose

By now, most of you have heard about the original @Drew auctioning off his Twitter Handle to benefit the Live Strong Foundation. I’m sure you’ve also heard about & Drew Carey and his series of increasingly generous bids – now potentially reaching $1,000,000 – should Mr. Carey’s Current Account Accrue a total of 1,000,000 Followers – Effectively Attributing a $1 Value to each person.

You can check out Mashable’s Coverage of #BlameDrewsCancer & the surrounding story, as well as CNN’s take on the situation.

I’m not breaking any news here – but I would like to make a comparison, even if it’s an obvious one. If you recall, it wasn’t too long ago that Ashton Kutcher, Oprah, and a slew of other celebrities pathetically riding their diamond studded coattails, joined the ranks of Twitter Personas, despite some vehement protesting that they do (and still do) nothing to add value to the community. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t celebrities who DO engage with their followers, ala The New York Jets, Dave Matthews, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Fallon…and others

However, it takes but a quick look at Mr. Demi Moore Willis’ recent posts to see he’s just broadcasting, adding little to no value, using twitter no differently than he would any other medium.

This is also not to say that he’s using twitter any differently than 90% of the rest of the popular platform’s patrons. However, he made a point to garner followers and attention, ‘racing’ CNN to reach 1 million and make the history books – and has since done absolutely nothing with that accomplishment, or his fan/follower base. All that influence – just going to waste.

Meanwhile – Drew Carey’s going to get a million followers (probably, maybe?), and even if he can’t interact with each and every single one – he’s still engaging, adding value to the community by validating their existence, giving them a reason to follow him other than to voyeur on mundane celebrity activity – he’s giving them VALUE – $1 to be exact. Thus enabling every single one of his followers to contribute to a charitable cause just by lifting a finger and without even having to donate any money themselves.

And what does Mr. Carey get out of this? He certainly doesn’t need the additional attention any more than Kutcher, the guy hosts “The Price is Right.” Sure he gets some added PR and a bit of an ego boost – but it’s costing him up to a million dollars.

This whole situation begs us to compare the two and their respective endeavors to reach one million followers – Ashton’s was vain, self serving, and ultimately pointless. While Drew Carey’s is clearly altruistic, not only donating his own money for a good cause but also rallying the masses and facilitating their involvement in charity, in the simplest possible way, through both traditional and new media. I think we have a winner here.

This then begs another question – how will Mr. Carey’s actions impact nonprofits and charitable organizations in their use of social media? Initiatives designed to raise attention for a given cause can elevate a charity from relative obscurity to a zeitgeist phenom with people dedicating their Facebook statii to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, en masse, or Greening their twitter profile picture to reflect the political situation in Iran.

Further, Microdonation campaigns have used the Twitter ripple effect and apps like Facebook causes to refocus attention from low quantity, high volume donations from philanthropic giants to relying, instead, on individuals, average Joes & Janes, donating in small increments but also in great magnitudes.

Now a new method makes the foray into the fray – something of a spin on celebrity endorsements and PSAs with a bit of 90’s domain squatting thrown into the mix, albeit with a more benevolent agenda in mind.

Back on the Ides of April ’09, CNN set what could have been a terrible precedent when they purchased the CNNBRK account, potentially opening the doors for malicious squatters to register for brands’ preferred social media profiles and hold them for ransom. [Note – @cnnbrk has been ridiculously inactive of late – wonder if CNN is regretting that decision]

Personally, I’m curious to see if Mr. Carey’s Actions will catch on – is auctioning off popular twitter accounts a viable means of raising money or is this a one-time deal?

It also calls into question the role of celebrities on Twitter – how should they be using twitter? If they can accrue a vast number of followers with relative ease (or $) do they have a responsibility to activate those followers?

Thoughts Please!!!!

  1. jenniewhite says:

    When Kutcher was in the “race” to beat CNN for followers it was around when I was starting to use Twitter. I remember thinking, is this what Twitter is all about? Racing to get as many followers possible. I knew that wasn’t me, I am not a shameless promoter and I am not going to go around begging for followers. Fortunately, I learned quickly that Twitter was WAY more then just the numbers.

    What Drew Carey is doing for #blamedrewscancer is awesome. While Kutcher may tweet about non-profit causes, he’s not calling us to action. He’s simply blasting out what he thinks important and hoping that his followers will donate time and money to the cause. I am a Kutcher follower and I have never clicked one of his links promoting a charity. Hopefully more celebrities will follow in Carey’s footsteps. They have the money and the reputation to make huge changes. In answer to your question, they should activate their followers.

    David awesome post, definitely caught my attention! Thanks!

  2. Another way to look at it:

    Drew has a marketing vehicle behind him, called TPIR, etc. So he can afford to make a donation and use Twitter purely for engagement.

    Ashton Kutcher HAS to use Twitter in a one-way broadcast fashion because, without the marketing vehicle behind him, he’s reliant upon his own persona to sell his next movie.

    Not right or wrong, but just the state of the world. Drew took over an insanely popular franchise – Ashton has to build his own, and rebuild before each new film or venture.

    Plus, Ashton did raise awareness of some cause, right?

  3. communikaytrix says:

    Interesting post David and a lot to digest. I won’t try to tackle it all but I’ll start by saying what Drew Carey is doing is phenomenally generous and engaging and truly leverages Twitter for something new. But is it really fair to hold every celebrity who joins Twitter accountable for some mass charitable effort? Perhaps they have their own causes activated offline? We can all choose, or not, to follow celebrities just like they have the right to use Twitter as it suits them – just like us lay people.

    • Aerocles says:

      I’m not saying we should expect every celeb on twitter to do this, I’m saying what’s the point of them being on twitter if they’re not going to use it any differently than they do other media. They have the ability to instantly reach thousands or millions of people – no layers or buffers in between them – that’s a pretty awesome power and a strong voice – I would expect to see some innovative use – and i’ve been largely disappointed.

  4. Cori says:

    My understanding was that @aplusk donated a Million dollars worth of mosquito nets to prevent malaria after getting his followers. Am I mistaken?

    • Aerocles says:

      He Did But What Did That Have To Do With His Community? There Was No Tie-In And Where Has He Been Since Then?

    • Aerocles says:

      To Elaborate – Ashton Essentially Bought His Followers & With It Another Portal For PR & The Public’s Attention – Drew Carey Seems Less Concerned With Publicity & Merely Took Advantage of An Opportunity To Do Something Good – Ashton Used The Charity To Gain Followers, Carey Used Followers To Raise & For The Charity – Therein Lies The Difference IMHO.

  5. Jen Bosanko says:

    Twitter has the potential to make any “normal” person or organization who/that is adding value in 140 characters or less into a “celebrity” (just look at the Bryan Brinkman experiment that Jimmy Fallon organized). Anyone with as much influence (and/or as much cash) as these guys should be contributing to their communities with whatever they can – be that spreading the word about a campaign virally via Twitter, or making a personal donation.

  6. Steve Bartolucci says:

    I have Tweeted the Top 30 Twitter heavy-hitters, who have the most Followers, suggesting that they “at least” follow @DrewFromTV. I was shocked to find that most, if not all, were not already doing that. All it would take, then, is a “suggestion” Tweet from any of them, and we’d be rocketing to $1MM, not scrounging to reach 100, then 200 thousand.

    @DrewFromTV needs over 12,000 new Followers per day to hit the million mark by 12/31. Twitterati can Un-Follow him on 1/1 if they wish. You don’t have to marry the guy, or like him or his form of comedy, or even TPIR. All you need to do is HATE CANCER. I’m surprised & disappointed that the Twitterverse just doesn’t jump on this right now, and get it over with. It’s gonna suck if it’s an agonizing daily march to the year end tally. Just blow it out to a million now, then #blamedrewscancer for the greatest Twitter promo ever.

  7. nik. says:

    interesting post- completely agree with the fact that @aplusk has hardly done anything to give back to the community.

    the most ironic part is that IF he did decide to do some good for someone else besides himself, it would generate even more media attention than currently (whether it’s immoral or not is another story).

    although for a great cause, i don’t think auctioning off popular twitter accounts is sustainable…it takes time and commitment to generate a large following, and after a while, it loses meaning and becomes “media-stale”.

    PS. Just followed you on Twitter..what does ‘Aerocles’ mean?

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