Are Facebook trying to bribe celebrities to ditch Twitter?

Have you noticed that certain celebrities have recently started putting out ‘teaser tweets’, with a link through to their Facebook page? You would have naturally assumed that this was a vain attempt by the celebrity to grow their exposure across both social media channels, but actual it may be a darker ploy, instigated by Facebook in an attempt to erode the celebrity pull that the microblogging site uses to woo the younger crowds.


This scene was played out earlier this week by tennis superstar Maria Sharapova. Sharapova has been in the news due to her decision to withdraw from the US Open tennis in New York’s Flushing Meadows. Naturally, she turned to social media to break the news. On Twitter she put out a tweet with the hashtag #misstheopen, which is nothing unusual. The short tweet however invited her fans to click through to her Facebook page, which contained a more thorough 126 word explanation about her decision to forgo one of Tennis’ biggest tournaments.

This is also increasingly the case with leading footballers in the UK. Manchester United and England superstar Wayne Rooney has now almost completely abandoned his Twitter presence in return for migrating over to Facebook. Up until now, this has been a really rare move, which in mnay ways is surprising. Facebook has at least 5x more users than Twitter – which for PR savvy brand builders within the celebrity camps means 5x more potential fans to hook in – and Facebook is generally considered to be an easier environment in which to engage people.

However, Twitter – at least according to perceived wisdom – does a better job because it is real time, complete with trending topics. This faster, more reactive environment has become the newsroom of the 21st century, the breaking ground for everything from sports results to the San Francisco air crash recently. Facebook has now worked to address the inbalance, by lining up their own version of embed posts as well as hashtag integration complete with trending discussions.

Now they’re actively reaching out to the celebrity contingent, with the aim of effectively encouraging them to make Facebook their social network of choice. Facebook it seems, is intent on attacking Twitters core base in their latest attempt to destabalise their competitor.


Celebrities are now as important as photos

Anybody who was a really early adopter of Facebook may remember the network in the days before you could share pictures. The introduction of photos was huge for Facebook, a real moment of realisation. The result was a mass pick-up in engagement and members caused by picture tagging. The rest is history.

Now it seems that Facebook see the celebrity opportunity as their pictures of 2013. Justin Osofsky, platforms partnership director, recently discussed this concept.

“We similarly see an opportunity here around public moments,” he says “We needed to be investing more on the product front.”

So how are Facebook working to win over the celeb market? One way is through the soon to be launched new celebrity Facebook app. This will become a monitoring station for the celebrity, allowing them to measure sentiment around their personal brand in real-time. Facebook are officially denying this app, but BurnTech.TV has seen ample evidence to point to its imminent release.

However, a simple sentiment app barely scratches the surface of how Facebook are working to win the celebs. The real work is being done across Facebook offices in Europe, LA and Asia.

The company are recruiting people connected to the stars, including a former executive at Warner music group and Universal Music. Such names are being surrounded by media savvy veterans of the entertainment game, and there appears to be plans to work with major sports stars to help them leverage exposure for their sponsorships – as well as valuable big brand ad budgets for Facebook.



Ad dollars and Twitter jealousy

So Facebooks motivation here is two-fold. As indicated above, celebrities bring huge volumes of advertising dollars with them, so encouraging some of the biggest stars to spend more time on Facebook is paramount to Facebook ad sales guys spending more time in ad agencies; its simply a way to leverage brand ad spend on Facebook.


However, this project runs deeper. Its not been lost on senior people in Palo Alto that when it comes to big stories, much of the premium news space are quoting Twitter, even when the story breaks at the same time on Facebook.


Twitter has won the race to be seen as a real-time news network, and this is bringing plenty of exposure to the network.


As the newspapers increasingly embed Tweets directly into their copy, they serve to drive traffic and membership to Twitter. They’re also much more open about their sources then they were in the early days, when newspapers covertly placed journalists on the growing Twitter network to scan for stories – a tactic that was particularly prevalent amongst lower brow gossip-led papers in the UK and the USA.


Facebook sees this as an opportunity to strike back, and they are seemingly intent to go to some pretty deep levels to achieve it. Either way, Facebook is going after the celeb market, and it could change the way that people engage with Facebook.


Whether they will succeed in denting Twitter is another thing entirely though

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