South Park Self

change from twits

Right, and in the Department of My Unnatural Fascination With Celebrity Culture: TwitChange. This is a genius idea, firmly in the contemporary consumerist mould of selling mostly intangibles at high prices based on investment in an idea/brand/label rather than intrinsic worth.

It's very clever: you basically bid for Twitter notice from your favourite celebrity, either a follow or a mention or a retweet or a delux package which entails the celebrity in person actually phoning you for a chat. The value to the buyer is immeasurable: actual, momentary significance in the world of your personal icon. The time investment and personal danger to the celebrity is absolutely minimal. All the proceeds go to helping an orphanage in Haiti, which means the organisers probably don't have to pay any of these celebrities for participating. At time of writing the top bid is in excess of $6000. The lowest bids are only around $50, but there are several hundred celebrity items on sale, and still ten days of bidding to go. It's going to be a very happy orphanage in Haiti.

And, Twitter being what it is, the overheads in terms of advertising and what have you are negligible: this thing has snowballed, very neatly exploiting a bunch of celebrities with a huge following, and spreading inexorably to their fans and beyond as they tweet their personal involvement. Irresistible two-punch: (a) it's your favourite celebrity, and (b) it's for the kiddies and charity and bunnies and kittens and what have you. Bonus side-effects include Simon Pegg liveblogging the notional rigours of the auction holding pens ("NathanFillion is playing the harmonica. We're all so scared") and Neil Gaiman offering a reading of a poem or short-short story over the phone.

The thing which absolutely fascinates me is the rankings in the bids, which are, I think, occasionally skewed by the actually quite arbitrary nature of investment and the probable influence of one or two really wealthy fans with a niche obsession. Obviously there are some other parameters here: celebrities have to be on Twitter, they have to have a following in order to generate a wide financial base for bids, a geeky and computer-sussed fan element probably helps, and there's a certain predominance of young, glamorous, female celebrities in the high bid scores, whose bidders I cannot acquit of being simply skeevy. There is probably also a reasonable amount of bidding inflation from unhinged fans who won't be able to stump up the actual cash, although presumably Ebay has ways of dealing with that.

As I type, however, Zachary Levi is the top bid. Who the hell is Zachary Levi? Googling reveals that he's the star in Chuck, but I wouldn't say it's a madly high-profile show, and he doesn't feature in the celebrity/gossip/geeky blog circles I frequent - either he has a fandom and/or Twitter presence I'm not aware of, or he has a single, very wealthy obsessed fan. (I'm not familiar with Ebay's processes, and their anonymous bid thing seems to preclude me looking for patterns with a single bidder dominating). The second highest bid is for Dana White, who's the slightly controversial head of a mixed martial arts organisation. That one has to be a wealthy, obsessive martial arts fan. I'm assuming that the Justin Bieber and Nick Jonas bidders have very wealthy parents. Further down the rankings, I'm amused to note that Demi Moore is as valuable as Felicia Day, and Nathan Fillion is in the top 10. Browncoats don't give up easy. Also, MC Hammer's in the bottom 10. Snap.

I shall, regrettably, be following developments with considerable fascination over the next week or so, and not a little schadenfreude. It isn't often that the Internets helpfully deconstruct the processes of fan investment via numerical ranking like this. It's making me vaguely wish I was a statistician.
  • Current Mood: accomplished randomly analytic
Re: Twitterati
There are four different "products" a celeb can offer - a tweet, a mention, a follow, and a grand package with, I think, mostly a follow and a phone call. Some of them have all four up.