The Discovery of Kim Kardashian
The last decade has been perplexing for those who follow the lives of the rich and famous in the society. The public has developed an increased interest in discovering the details of celebrities personal life, including the places of their residence, whom they date or marry, what they wear etc. McCutcheon, Griffith, Aruguete, and Haight (2012) define this tendency as celebrity worship. Among the people who managed to dominate the news cycle is a reality show star Kim Kardashian together with her family.
A study by North and Hargreaves (2006) revealed that fixation with celebrities, which is another trend, leads many to imitate their lifestyle, looks, and views on life. It is perhaps the reason why the popularity of Kim and her family is met with both ridicule and bewilderment. Some wonder how a person with no apparent talent has managed to become a household name and a media fixture. We have been socialized to think that in order to become successful and famous, one ought to have a particular God-given talent that makes this person the envy of the world. However, Kims net worth is estimated to be $45 million, the money she made through her reality TV show, product endorsements, and entrepreneurial ventures.
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Kim started her career as a personal stylist for celebrities, but it is her adult tape with a famous musician that put her on the map. The scandal that followed the release of the tape as well as her beauty and extravagant lifestyle raised much interest among the public. A few months later, she signed on to a reality television series (Keeping up with the Kardashians) together with her family that contributed to her fame. Other things that keep Kim in the news is her body features and speculation of plastic surgery to enhance them. It should be mentioned that plastic surgery is common among celebrities, because some generate headlines solely because of unique body features. Most likely, fans will want to resemble their idols leading to a high demand for plastic surgery, as revealed by Maltby and Day (2006).
Kim has consistently demonstrated her ability to make people wonder about her next move. Her popularity went to a new level in 2011, when she married basketball player Kris Humphries (Stever, 2011). Interestingly, the couple publicly broke up after only 72 days of marriage. Media speculation exploded with many critics claiming it was a mere PR stunt to receive more attention. However, instead of staying away from public appearance, Kim took advantage of the situation to market her new perfume and TV show. She continued to generate headlines by adopting viral marketing and making public appearances. Consequently, Kardashians have become a brand on their own, compromising a family of six whom the public adore and loathe at the same time. Despite the criticism and the scandals, Kim and her family have proved they possess staying powers. As Sheridan, Maltby, and Gillett (2006) proved in a discussion about the obsession with celebrities, it translates to fans wanting to smell, dress, and act like them. Millions of consumers continue to purchase Kardashian clothes, cosmetic products, and weight loss pills, and tune in to their show. Therefore, Kim is evidently one of the most popular celebrities with millions of followers on social media, and the one who generates the most traffic.
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Does the high popularity on social media increase celebrity influence?
Data Collection and Analysis
I evaluated the social media presence of Kim Kardashian and her influence on her followers. I analyzed the number of tweets she sends per day and the average amount of retweets she receives from her followers. Further, I categorize her messages as those that are personal and family-related versus those meant for business. In addition, I analyzed the differences in feedback the two categories receive. Finally, I looked at the type of products and brands that she is more likely to advertise with particular attention to cosmetics and clothing items. The aim this procedure was to discover whether Kims fans are more interested in her personal and family life or the brands she endorses. My aim was to distinguish the category of items that get the most attention due to her endorsement. The social media strategy Kim uses to push these products is as much amusing as the popularity of these products after her support.
The next step was to study the amount of traffic her twitter page generates per month. For this purpose, I looked at the graphical analysis of each month. I also intend to compare social media popularity and influence to see if they are mutually exclusive. In such a way, I will establish whether being popular on social media and having high influence are mutually exclusive.
Results and Discussion
Kim Kardashian is not a celebrity with the largest number of followers on Twitter, but she is the one who generates the most traffic and referrals on the network. Kim is not even in the top five of the most followed people on the twitter. She occupies ninth position with 57 million followers behind stars like Katy Perry (106 million), Taylor Swift (85 million), and Ellen DeGeneres (73 million).
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Kim joined Twitter in March 2009, and by the end of August the same year, she had gathered more than 1,9 million Twitter followers. She has sent 25,026 tweets since she joined. Her presence grows every day. The frequency of her twitting has significantly increased since the earlier years. Kims monthly tweets amount to 350-400 with an average of 12 tweets per day. She has an audience attentiveness of 59% on the social network, which means her followers respond to her. In fact, the average amount of retweets she receives is 2,748 per tweet. The number of followers she gains every day is around 24,600. The most common products that Kim endorses are cosmetics products. 50% of the tweets she sends are about her personal life and the other 50% are brand endorsements, and they get approximately the same attention.
The tweets below are Kims personal updates on her family. They also demonstrate the number of retweets and likes she gets.
Below is an example of a business tweet of Kim advertising her video game to her followers.
Kim Kardashian draws her followers attention by making them feel part of her life. She responds to particular tweets and retweets positive reviews of a product she is advertising. She manages to present the item and herself in a manner that fans will want to get something similar. The tweet below demonstrates how Kim tries to advertise Armani foundation.
It is necessary to point out that high popularity on Twitter and other social media does not necessarily translate to higher influence. Significant influence means that followers will purchase the product that the star recommends to them. Kim Kardashian, for example, has fewer followers than other stars, but she is the one with significant influence. Kims fans pay much attention to her, and she can affect the kind of items they purchase based on what she endorses. This is a vivid example of celebrity worship, as stated by McCutcheon, Griffith, Aruguete, and Haight (2012). People want to dress, smell, act, and look like their favorite stars. This phenomenon is one of the causes of high demand in plastic surgery and the success of social media marketing.
Contrary to popular belief that a celebrity should keep their image clean and ensure they get favorable coverage from the media, this research has shown it is not always the case. A star similar to Kim and her family can benefit from negative coverage and bad publicity too. In 2015, Hollywood Reporter ranked Kim as one of the most hated celebrities by the American public. The paradox is that the negative coverage from the media has contributed to her popularity as she gains more followers daily, which debunks the widespread belief that a star should always try to present a perfect image to the media and the public. In fact, negative coverage can elevate a star to new heights if handled with intelligence. Some stars, like Miley Cyrus, actively seek the negative coverage, because they are aware that it can boost their careers more effectively.
Therefore, the number of social media followers is important yet does not translate into high influence. An effective influencer, however, is the fact whether or not a celebrity has the right audience for a given item and an ability to sell. A fashion blogger can have 500,000 followers compared to a celebrity with 5 million audience, but the blogger can sell more fashion items than the star. In this regard, Kim successfully sells fashion, beauty, and weight loss items but may not be as effective in selling a book. Therefore, what matters is not the popularity but the niche market.
The graph below shows the amount of traffic Kim generated on her Twitter account.
The study revealed that the definition of a celebrity has changed in the past years to include some reality stars and influencers. The way famous people communicate with their audience has also shifted, primarily with the introduction of social media. Previously, fans could only learn about their favorite celebrity through conventional media such as television and magazines. Modern reality show stars vividly demonstrate how far people can go to become famous. Kim Kardashian, for example, became famous because of starring in an adult tape. Over the years, she has been willing to employ various tactics to stay famous. The strategies she uses, no matter how immoral they may be, translated into more traffic and higher ratings for her show.