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Does failure of Digital Death campaign mean bad things for social media?

Photo courtesy of BiggerPictureImages.com via Flickr

If you’ve ever seen an episode of 30 Rock, you know Jane Krakowski plays a self-absorbed actress named Jenna Maroney who vastly overestimates her popularity and importance. 

She’s exactly the type of person who would conceive of and participate in the Digital Death campaign. Unfortunately Digital Death isn’t part of a 30 Rock plot and is very much a real-life social media disaster.

According to its website, “Starting December 1 – World AIDS Day – the world’s most followed celebrity Tweeters are sacrificing their digital lives to help save millions of real lives affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. But they don’t have to die in vain. And they don’t have to stay dead for long. Just watch their Last Tweet and Testaments, and buy their lives back. Every single dollar helps Keep a Child Alive fight this terrible disease. And when $1,000,000 is reached, everyone will be back online and tweeting in no time.”

The website has the celebrities who’ve “sacrificed” their digital lives laying in coffins, in full hair and make-up. Next to their pictures is a coffin with a tally of how much money has been raised. As of  this morning, only $298,718.15 had been raised.

Several other news sites have pointed out that the original $10 minimum for donations automatically eliminated a huge chunk of people. (The mininum donation has since been lowered to $1) Also, the campaign removed the ability of these celebrities to actually promote the campaign by taking them completely off of social media. But what does the failure of the Digital Death campaign mean for social media in general?

Celebrities participating in the campaign were Twitter heavy-hitters and wield huge influence – people like the Kardashian sisters and Lady Gaga. But their virtual deaths haven’t sparked much of a response from people. They’re gone from social media, and it doesn’t seem like they’ll be coming back any time soon.

I Googled “celeb-fluence” and came up with nothing but I think it can be defined as the unique influence celebrities hold. No doubt celebrities have influence over followers, but it’s a different kind of power. When they provide their opinion about something like a Carl’s Jr. hamburger, their followers might be more likely to buy one but it’s usually a one-time, random endorsement.  The Kardashians give their approval to a lot of things so while their opinion matters, they’re not the “go to” influencers who are the Holy Grail for PR and marketing professionals.

This is where celeb-fluence is different from “true” influence. (Tru-fluence? No? OK now I’m pushing it.) The “true” influencers are the people whose opinion about something would truly be missed if it were no longer there. These influencers exist in specific and highly-engaged niches.  There are likely Carl’s Jr.’s experts out there who have a loyal following of people that would certainly be disappointed if their go-to source for information was no longer available.

Do experts and influencers in other fields face the same reaction if they’re suddenly gone from social media?

Tags : social media

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