Companies and celebrities are boasting about the number of fans and followers they’ve racked up across various social-media sites, which begs the question: Does that kind of following have any financial value, or is it just one giant popularity contest?
In the case of Twitter, it’s most likely the latter. Don Dodge notes that celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears are closing in on the one-million follower mark. But since Twitter isn’t a proven direct-sales channel, and there’s no scalable way for Tweeters (not third-parties like Glam or Federated Media) to make money off of their Tweets, you can’t value their followers on volume alone.
YouTube is a different story. For teen online video phenom Lucas Cruikshank (who stars as Fred Figglehorn in a series of silly clips), cracking the one-million subscriber mark is worth “tens of thousands of dollars in monthly income,” per the LAT. Cruikshank has beat out major filmmakers, music artists and other internet celebs to the one-million subscriber milestone on YouTube — popularity that even earned him a guest appearance on Nickelodeon’s iCarly TV show in February.
Then there’s Facebook. The number of friends a given member can have is a bit of a mystery (which Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg acknowledged in a blog post), but brands and public figures like Coke, Barack Obama and Rihanna have amassed well over a million fans or supporters. (The “fans” connection is most similar to being a Twitter follower or YouTube subscriber, since there’s no need to ask for permission, unlike a friend request). If a brand or celeb chose to embed an e-commerce app on his/her page (giving fans the option to purchase either real or virtual merchandise), then the more fans they have, the more potential revenue they could generate from micro-transactions. What’s unclear is how many people are actually doing that.
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