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An Internet celebrity, influencer, cyber star, key opinion leader (KOL), Internet personality, online celebrity, blogebrity, or micro-celebrity is someone who has acquired or developed their fame and notability through the Internet. The rise of social media has helped people increase their outreach to a global audience. Internet celebrities may be recruited by companies for influencer marketing to advertise products to their fans and followers on their platforms. Internet celebrities often function as lifestyle gurus who promote a particular lifestyle or attitude. In this role, they may be crucial influencers/multipliers for trends in fashion, technology, gaming, political, entertainment, and other genres.
Since then, social media has become a central part of communication, social life, businesses, and news publishing. Some of the most popular social media platforms are Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, WeChat, Instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter.
Self-branding, also known as personal branding, describes the development of a public image for commercial gain or social/cultural capital. The rise of social media today has been exploited by individuals seeking personal fame and product sales. Platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and VSCO are the most common social media outlets on which online influencers attempt to build a following. Fame can sometimes be attained through modeling, art, humor, podcasts, and other media forms. Experts on marketing have concluded that "No longer does a person need to be familiar with complex coding languages or other technicalities to build websites, because virtually anyone can upload text, pictures and video instantly to a site from a personal computer or phone. With technological barriers crumbling and its near ubiquity, the web has become the perfect platform for personal branding"
Depending on their rise to fame, an internet celebrity may reach their audience in different ways. Millions of people write online journals or weblogs, but most fail to become internet celebrities. In many cases, this content does not reach a large audience and may be intended for a small niche audience. If the creator has or develops a distinctive personality, it may bring them more notoriety than their content does.
In some cases, people might rise to fame through a single event or video that goes viral. The Internet allows videos, news articles, and jokes to circulate rapidly. Depending on its reach, the content may become an "Internet meme". For example, Zach Anner, an Austin, Texas-based comedian, gained worldwide attention after submitting a video to Oprah Winfrey's "Search for the Next TV Star" competition.
The concept of internet celebrity brings to mind Andy Warhol's famous quote about 15 minutes of fame. A more recent adaptation of Warhol's quote, possibly prompted by the rise of online social networking, blogging, and similar online phenomena, is the claim that "In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people" or, in some renditions, "On the Web, everyone will be famous to fifteen people." This quote, though attributed to David Weinberger, was said to have originated with the Scottish artist Momus.
The YouTube phenomenon and "vlogging"
YouTube has risen as one of the biggest platforms for launching Internet celebrities. YouTube allows individual users to record their daily lives for the whole world to see. This activity is called video blogging, or vlogging. YouTubers today, regardless of genres and types of videos they make, have created an industry that can generate revenue from greater amounts of views and higher popularity. One good example is YouTuber gamer, reactor and streamer PewDiePie, who live streams gameplay footage on YouTube, with around 100 million subscribers as of September 2019. This makes him the largest non-corporation YouTuber.
300 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube every minute, with 5 billion videos watched every day. Individuals are creating videos and uploading them onto social media platforms, such as YouTube, in return for income. Variety published an article in August 2014 stating that YouTube stars are more popular than mainstream celebrities among U.S. teens. Advertisers, in an effort to reach teenagers and millennials who were not watching regular television and movies, started contacting Internet celebrities. YouTube now has 1.5 billion monthly active users, and many YouTubers have millions of subscribers.
YouTube stars appear to have a greater influence on millennials than traditional celebrities of the past. One of the main reasons behind this is that the majority of millennials do not watch TV. They prefer to use platforms they can access from their mobile devices. 70% of subscribers say that YouTube personalities change and shape the pop culture and 60% of them say they would make buying decisions based on the recommendations of their favorite YouTube star over those of a TV or movie star.
A micro-celebrity is a person famous within a niche group of users on a social media platform. Micro-celebrities often present themselves as public figures. The concept of the micro-celebrity was originally developed by Theresa Senft in her 2008 book, Camgirls: Celebrity and Community in the Age of Social Networks. According to Senft, micro-celebrity "is best understood as a new style of online performance that involves people ‘amping up’ their popularity over the Web using technologies like video, blogs and social networking sites". Other individuals researching micro-celebrities over the years include Crystal Abidin, Anne Jerslev, Alice Marwick  and Tobias Raun, among others. According to Raun, micro-celebrity is "a form of identity linked almost exclusively to the Internet, characterizing a process by which people express, create and share their identities online". Senft and Marwick also point out that micro-celebrity differs from more traditional forms of celebrity associated with Hollywood stars because a micro-celebrity's popularity is often directly linked to his/her audience and the audience comes to expect a certain degree of authenticity and transparency.
The Internet allows the masses to wrest control of fame from traditional media, creating micro-celebrities with the click of a mouse
Wanghong (Chinese: 网红), or internet fame in Mandarin, is the Chinese version of internet stardom. The term is also used to describe the Chinese digital economy based on influencer marketing in social media. Wanghong has been predominantly used to generate profits via retail or eCommerce, by attracting the attention of celebrities' followers.
Internet celebrities have also become a popular phenomenon in China with the likes of Sister Furong (Fu Rong Jiejie), who received worldwide notoriety and fame for her efforts at self-promotion via Internet postings.
According to CBN Data, a commercial data company affiliated with Alibaba, the Internet celebrities economy was set to be worth 58 billion yuan in 2016, more than China's total cinema box office revenue in 2015.
There are two main business models in the Wanghong economy: Social Media Advertising, and Online Retailing.
In the online retailing business model, eCommerce-based Wanghong involves the use of social media platforms to sell self-branded products to potential buyers among followers via Chinese customer to customer C2C websites, such as TaoBao. Celebrities work as their own shops’ models by posting pictures or videos of themselves, wearing the clothes or accessories they sell, or giving distinctive makeup or fashion tips. The celebrities serve as key opinion leaders for their followers, who either aspire to be like them, or look up to them.
Zhang Dayi, one of China's best known Wanghong, with 4.9 million Sina Weibo followers, has her online shop on a TaoBao website, reportedly earning 300 million yuan ($46 million) per year. This is comparable to the $21 million made by Fan Bingbing, a top Chinese actress. Li Ziqi, a celebrity food blogger, has over 16 million followers on Weibo and has inspired many bloggers to post similar content on traditional Chinese cooking and crafts.
In social media advertising, Internet celebrities can be paid to advertise products. When celebrities have garnered sufficient attention and following, advertising companies approach them to help advertise products, in an effort by the advertisers to reach a wider audience with their messages.
Censorship in Chinese media has created an entire social media ecosystem, that has become wildly successful in its own way. For every social media platform in the Western world, there is a Chinese version of it, and the Chinese version can be equally successful. In China, the social media platforms used are different from those used in the West, but the results are the same - the platforms generate revenue. The greatest difference between Chinese Wanghong celebrities and their Western counterparts is that the profits generated by Chinese celebrities can be immense. Unlike YouTube, which takes a 45% of the commission on ads, Weibo, one of the biggest social media platforms of China, is not involved in advertising, which allows internet celebrities to be more independent. The monthly incomes of the most famous Chinese influencers can exceed 10 million RMB ($1.5 million).
Different types of online celebrities make money in various ways, but most of them make money from endorsements. Online celebrities use their fame to promote products or experiences to their followers. Celebrities are believed to provide credibility to products.
YouTube celebrities can make money directly through their YouTube channel by using ads or by sponsoring products. YouTube's Adsense program allows YouTubers to gain revenue from ads and views. In order to generate income using Adsense, YouTubers must fulfill some requirements: they must have more than 1,000 subscribers, live in an eligible country, and have more than 4,000 hours of watchtime within a year. YouTube can be a lucrative platform for YouTube celebrities like PewDiePie, who made US$15.5 million in 2018.
Youtubers can also expand their source of revenue by creating their own products or merchandise to sell. Similarly, fashion bloggers and Instagram celebrities can earn money by promoting brands on their platforms or developing their own brands. Bloggers can feature sponsored posts in social media to make profits. For instance, fashion blogger turned businesswoman, Chiara Ferragni, started off as an online blogger and then gained millions of followers on Instagram. She later created her own brand, the Chiara Ferragni Collection. She, like many other Instagram influencers, started off by charging per post for promoting brands. She now gets paid a large but undisclosed amount of money per Instagram post and earns revenue from the sale of her own products.
Meetups are often a way internet celebrities interact with fans in real life. Occasionally, an internet celebrity might organize a meetup and invite fans to meet him/her at a certain place and time without proper organization. This can attract crowds of fans, causing disorderly and even unsafe situations. Tanacon is an example of an organization involving a group of Internet celebrities that were set to meet paying fans but did not follow through. Because of the disorganized setup, the meetup resulted in chaos.
Alternatively, events can be organized at a venue with security personnel. An organized video conference called Vidcon is an annual event designed for people interested in online videos. VidCon invites internet content creators to participate in events for paying fans such as performances, panels, and meet-and-greets.
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