Use of Twitter by public figures

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Lady Gaga, a celebrity who uses Twitter

The use of Twitter by celebrities and politicians has become an important factor both for Twitter itself and for the celebrity users. As with many other social networking WWW sites, the postings and pictures by celebrity users attracts people to the site, which increases opportunity for advertising.[1] To this end, Twitter has provided two facilities to its high-profile users.

The first is the verified account. Introduced in June 2009, the verified account system provides Twitter readers with a means to distinguish genuine accountholders from impostors. A symbol displayed against the account name indicates that Twitter has taken steps to ensure that the account has the approval of the person whom it is claimed to be, or represent.[2] However, the public signup page for obtaining verified accounts was discontinued in 2010, with Twitter explaining that the volume of requests for verified accounts had exceeded its ability to cope; and nowadays Twitter determines itself whom to approach about verified accounts, limiting them to "highly sought after users", "business partners", and "individuals at high risk of impersonation".[3][4] Business partners include those who advertise using Twitter, although it is not clearly spelled out in the material that Twitter provides to its business partners when and whether they might qualify for having verified account status.[5]

Secondly, Twitter attempts to work with celebrity and media public relations staff to encourage them to make use of Twitter in their advertising and publicity campaigns, encouraging them to use Twitter in their promotional campaigns, and providing support and analysis services to determine what worked, what created "buzz", and what did not.[1]

Celebrity entertainers, models and sportspeople[edit]

Celebrities use Twitter to engage with their fans.[6] Ashton Kutcher and Stephen Fry do this, for examples.[7] Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg, was one of the first celebrities on Twitter. In 2009, he talked about how one can use one's Twitter fame as a form of cultural capital that can be leveraged.[7]

However, for celebrity users Twitter has proven to be a double-edged sword. Along with the laudatory comments from fans come hostile attacks from anonymous people; fan goodwill and even career opportunities can be lost through tweets; and several celebrities (Ashton Kutcher over a tweet about Joe Paterno, Courtney Love, and Chris Brown) have encountered trouble (in Love's case, sued) because of things that they have said on Twitter.[8]

Many celebrities do not actually maintain their own accounts; rather, the accounts are maintained by their publicists.[6]

The most popular United Kingdom celebrities on Twitter come from television with people like Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross being amongst the most popular British celebrities on the site.[7] Fry's success on Twitter is credited with being the same person on Twitter that he is off Twitter.[7]


Twitter is used by politicians including former US president Barack Obama,[9] cabinet members in Chile, and politicians in Germany, Japan and India.[10]

Barack Obama is the most followed politician with 102 million followers on his personal twitter. He is followed by US President Donald Trump with 51.5 million followers on his own personal twitter. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India is the third most followed politician with 44.3 million followers.

In the United Kingdom and United States, politicians use Twitter to communicate and interact with their constituents.[11] During her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton used Twitter to promote her campaign but unlike Obama, she did not follow back many of her new followers.[12] In May 2011, 387 members of the United States Congress had Twitter accounts.[12] During the primary race for president in 2008, John Edwards was also on Twitter.[13] During the 2008 United States general election, during one monitored period, Obama made 261 Tweets while his Republican competitor John McCain made only 26.[14] On the state level in the United States, politicians tend to use Twitter primarily for constituent and policy related issues. The second most popular category of tweets is personal musings.[15] The type of communication by United States politicians on Twitter varies from highly personal to press release like.[16]

British politicians on Twitter include Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May.[17] In Australia, the Greens were initially more successful on Twitter than other political parties.[18] The Australian Labor Party's politicians have used Twitter to attack their opposition,[19] with some one creating a parody account featuring Tony Abbott.[20] Kevin Rudd does not appear to be making his own tweets, rather some one else is likely to be doing it for him.[21]

Chilean politicians are using Twitter as an alternative method of communications as they find the mainstream press not giving them media coverage.[11] Politicians in Greece and Japan also use Twitter to communicate with their constituents.[22] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has used Twitter to help change his image and make himself more personable.[11] Venezuela President Hugo Chavez was one of the most followed Venezuelan accounts on Twitter.[22]

Religious figures[edit]

On December 12, 2012 history was made when Pope Francis sent his first tweet[23] which was re-tweeted by thousands of users almost immediately. Since this time Pope Francis has amassed over 7.56 million followers on his account @Pontifex (as of October 2015) and regularly engages with users via the hashtag #AskPontifex addressing religious matters and responding to questions. Several satellite accounts are used to transmit and translate the Pope's tweets into different languages.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rosman 2012.
  2. ^ Header 2009.
  3. ^ Delo 2012.
  4. ^ Twitter 2012.
  5. ^ McHugh 2012.
  6. ^ a b Peck 2011, p. 74.
  7. ^ a b c d Bennett 2010, pp. 174–.
  8. ^ Mbonambi 2012.
  9. ^ Twitaholic 2014b.
  10. ^ Parmelee & Bichard 2011, p. 14.
  11. ^ a b c Parmelee & Bichard 2011, p. 15.
  12. ^ a b Parmelee & Bichard 2011, p. 8.
  13. ^ Maarek 2011, p. 71.
  14. ^ Hendricks 2011, p. 13.
  15. ^ Parmelee & Bichard 2011, p. 9.
  16. ^ Parmelee & Bichard 2011, p. 10.
  17. ^ Knight 2012, p. 187.
  18. ^ Chen 2011, p. 73.
  19. ^ Chen 2011, p. 83.
  20. ^ Chen 2011, p. 69.
  21. ^ Reddick 2010, p. 342.
  22. ^ a b Lacy 2011, p. 61–.
  23. ^ "The Pope's first Tweets | Twitter Blogs". Retrieved 2015-10-09.

Reference bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]