13 December 2010

Why the ‘Celebrity Death Tweet’ Campaign Failed

A whole bunch of celebrities died on December 1st. If this is news to you, then you’ll be reassured to know they’ve since come back to life.

Why did they ‘die’ and how did this magical resurrection take place?

The ‘Digital Life Sacrifice’ saw celebrities like Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Elijah Wood, Jennifer Hudson, Usher and Serena Williams ‘give up their digital lives’ (that is, stop tweeting) until us plebs shelled out $1 million dollars to ‘bring them back to life’ in the name of AIDs research.


An intriguing fundraiser for a worthy cause. However, by half-way through the campaign, not even half the money had been raised to bring the celebrities back to life.

In stepped philanthropist billionaire Stewart Bahr to save the day (and the campaign) who brought the total up to $1 million dollars.

But hold on, celebrities + good cause + tons of fans = raging success, right?

In this case, a combination of hubris and a lack of understanding of how social media works undermined the campaign’s goals.

Here are the four nails in the ‘Celebrity Death Tweet’ coffin:

1. Overestimating the power of celebrity on Twitter

As recent research showed, celebrity twits may have lots of followers, but they have very little influence. We’re following them, but we’re not acting on their every tweet. In reality, most celebrity tweeting consists of inane chatter, which is one thing Twitter can always do with less of. Which brings us to nail number #2:

2. Thinking you’ll be missed

In the social media universe, the moment you stop tweeting, blogging or status updating, you don’t exist. If there’s one less tweet to read that’s fine by me. I follow a couple of the celebs involved in the ‘death tweet’ campaign. I can’t say I noticed they were gone.

3. Lack of humility


Serena Williams had this to say about her digital death:

"[It means] no more news about me winning more Grand Slams, selling books, winning gold medals, or owning AMAZING football teams or pioneering fashion until we raise some serious cash".

‘Down to earth’ and ‘humble’ are two terms you wouldn’t use to describe it. Would you pay to get someone like that tweeting again?

4. Asking for too much

The campaigners were asking for a $10 text donation from fans. Considering many celebrity fans are teenagers, that’s a lot to ask.


So the campaign’s over and $1.1 million dollars has been raised for AIDs research.

It’d be nice to think that lessons have been learned and that people would think twice before trying a campaign like this again. Unfortunately, with the collective arrogance displayed, they just might.

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