Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

How Celebs Use Social Media for Self-Promotion and Charity (and How to Steal Their Tactics)

Social media has become a huge part of our everyday lives these past few years, especially with celebrities. For pop stars like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, Twitter and Facebook are great ways to interact with fans and update them with their latest news, concert tour dates, and general thoughts. But it can also be used as a very effective marketing tool for self-promotion and charity!

How celebrities use social media for self-promotion:

Most celebrities rapidly gain followers and fans on Facebook and Twitter because their fans want to stay updated on their lives, which means those celebs have plenty of opportunities to market to a captivated audience. Sometimes this is done so well that fans don’t even realize it’s part of an advertising campaign! For example, as part of Katy Perry’s 2011 California Dreams tour, fans’ tweets were displayed over the Jumbo-tron during her live concert performance to get the crowd interacting with the show. This is a great way for her to get feedback on the show and gain followers she might not have had before, but it’s also ideal for strengthening fan loyalty!

Another social media favorite (and pop star), Rihanna, used her Facebook page to engage fans in her 2011 album release; she leaked behind-the-scenes footage, song lyrics, and other Facebook-only fan information. During the release, she was performing on tour and was unable to promote the album traditionally (doing radio and TV appearances). Both of these strategies engaged fans to get them tons of publicity, followers, and album sales.

How celebrities use social media to promote a cause or charity:

On the same note, celebrities also use their social media accounts to spread the word about charities and causes they support. For example, in 2011, celebrities like Ellen Degeneres, Britney Spears, and Kim Kardashian tweeted to spread the word for the Berry family (this was the story of a tragic car accident involving a family of five — both parents were killed and two of the children became paralyzed). The celebrities’ tweets reached millions of fans who could re-tweet a picture of themselves making a heart with their hands and/or donate money to help support the kids.

Also, in December 2010, celebrities participated in a “digital death” until they raised one million dollars for the Keep a Child Alive Foundation. The celebs (Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Usher, and Alicia Keys) pledged to not use Facebook or Twitter until they reached their goal. After the first six days, the celebrities raised more than $500,000 for the foundation! A few days later they made their million-dollar goal and got back to tweeting their millions of fans, thanking them for their donations and support.

It pays to have a balanced social media plan! Self-promotion and generosity should work together if you’re going to maintain a successful social presence.

How you can mimic celebrity success on social media:

  • Provide exclusive value to your fans/followers. Give your fans a reason to pay attention to you and they will! Whether you offer exclusive content on social media or you rock at answering customer requests at blazing speeds, you’ve got to offer something that other people don’t (or can’t).
  • Do good with the influence you have. Not everyone can be powerful influencer like the celebrities I’ve mentioned in this post, but there’s no reason why we can’t all draw loyal followings (no matter the size). Rally your followers by uniting them under a common cause!
  • Involve and reward your biggest supporters. The most successful celebs regularly interact with fans and reward them with something special, like a free download, a presale code, or better yet — a mention on Facebook or Twitter. To copy this technique, recognize your most loyal supporters and make them a part of your campaign. They’ll probably be thrilled and spread the news via word of mouth, which could net you some new followers.

Social media is mostly thought of as a tool for personal gain, but it’s far from a waste of time — especially when you can help others in a time of need. Celebrities reach out to their fans for support, notify them of new projects, and leak new information to get them involved. Having millions of fans certainly speeds up the process of spreading news about a cause or a product, but anyone can use these techniques!

Have you ever donated to a charity because a celeb you like tweeted about it? Or, do you check Facebook for new celebrity updates? Let us know in the comments below!

Image credit to Samantha Sekula, Tulane Public Relations, and


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  1. Alex Brodsky

    While I was at WB, Zac Levi of ‘Chuck’ raised $50,000 for a charity (I can’t remember which one) solely through his twitter feed. Social media has certainly helped in that regard.

    On the other side, celebs also have to be careful when Tweeting. Upsetting a certain fan base can often lead to more headaches than benefits for them.

    Ashton Kutcher had to give up control of his Twitter feed after a couple poorly thought out tweets in a row caused a firestorm that could end a career.

    • Candice J.

      I agree with Alex. I love to see anybody celebrity or not support and create good causes through the power of social media. But it’s a slippery slope and you have to be very careful and particular about what you’re saying and putting out there. You never know what can end a career or business!

    • Jen

      Celebs are so awesome when it comes to raising money for charity! But you’re totally right, because they have such a large amount of followers they have to be extra careful what they say.

      Ashton Kutcher is just stupid, he needed to disappear after that 70’s show was canceled.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Was that Operation Smile? *is totally not a fangirl*

    • Eric

      Well…as I like to put it, just because you are able to say what you’d like on social media? Doesn’t mean you should. Most people don’t have a problem with this, while others (as you’ve named), can’t help themselves.

      Props to those using their techonological powers for good.

  2. Jaimie Smith

    Jen this is such an awesome post! I have noticed all this too. I love it when celebs use a social media network to spread the word about a certain fundraiser. Because everybody loves to follow celebs and see what they are doing, so by celebs talking about it really helps out.
    As we all know I am a big fan, practically obssessed with Sophia Bush (hence my blog from yesterday about her OTH character Brooke Davis). I like to follow her on Twitter, and there was always a Cancer fundraiser she was involved in and she would always tweet about it. It was really cool because that got more people to be a part of it.
    You did such a great job on this post, Jen! I lovedd it! 🙂

    • Jen

      Well aren’t you just the sweetest peach in Georgia! Thanks Jaimie, l don’t use Twitter, but I like getting updates via FB from Lady GaGa. I love when she posts updated concert information. Can’t wait to see her again live – hopefully sometime soon 🙂

      • Jaimie Smith

        Haha! you and your Lady GaGa obsession! 🙂

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    These are great tips, Jen! Mentions on social media are free for you, but absolutely delight your fans!

    Social media just incredible – especially for raising money for charity! We did it here at QLP with our TAILS promotion and it was a huge hit!

    • Jen

      The TAILS promotion was awesome!

  4. Rachel

    Great post, Jen — you’re so right about how useful social media can be, whether it’s promoting a product or generating awareness for a good cause. I never knew about most of the examples you brought up, so it was really cool to read about those. And as Mandy said, QLP has used social media to promote a good cause, too, and is another great example of how such a strategy can be successful. 🙂

    • Jen

      Thanks Rachel, I didn’t know about them either until I did a bit of researching. There are tons of celebs that do this type of social media promotion and charity, I just barely scratched the surface!

  5. Paul

    I know that some of celebs used apps like to get more followers. But I don;t get it cuz’ they are already popular and they don’t need this. Greed? Maybe

  6. Glendon Sorrell

    I am in church and I need some help with our building project we got going on the name of the church is Greater Faith Apostolic Temple. The church is paid for and been in ministry for over 24 years of God Blessings, Grace and Mercy. I am just trying to reach out to someone for help. We are doing some renovations to the building to enhance the ministry.

  7. emma027

    It is easy to choose a celebrity but it is tough to establish a strong association between the product and the endorser.

  8. Pankaj Sharma (Justin Bieber Fan)

    It’s great when celebrities do the charity work. It inspires their fans to do the same, like do something good for the humanity.

    Celebs like Kim Kardashian only use social media to promote their products. While Lady Gaga does amazing charity work. That’s the difference between some celebrities.

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