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8 Steps to Cashing in on Your Micro-Celebrity, the Saddest Job Title Since Freelance Writer

By Kathy Benjamin | Think Pieces | May 4, 2012 |


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It has recently come to my attention that I am a micro-celebrity. You are probably one, too. I know that sounds like a ridiculous made-up word but it is a real thing. Another freelance writer friend is even taking a class on the phenomenon at what is almost certainly a legitimate, accredited, and not totally-made-up university. A Google search for the term returns over 52 million results. Perhaps one of the most intriguing is the future of advertising and micro-celebrity endorsements.

In 2008, the CEO of a company called Deep Focus, and fellow self-proclaimed micro-celebrity, Ian Schafer, auctioned off the rights to his Twitter photo for a month. No sponsored tweets or anything like that, just a tiny visual image beamed directly into the eyes of his (at the time) couple hundred followers. The national media picked up on the story and after a week of "intense bidding" the sponsorship was sold for $1,082.01. Now people who know about this sort of thing say it is the way forward. Clearly I needed to do some research into how we can all exploit our potentially lucrative micro-celebrity status.

Step One: Becoming a Micro-Celebrity

Urbandictionary defines micro-celebrity as "One who gains a cult or mainstream following due to viral internet distribution." Frustratingly, that is a really broad definition that encompassed roughly 90% of everyone on the internet.

The good thing is that means 90% of you could easily become, or maybe already are, micro-celebrities. All it takes is a blog, Facebook page, or twitter account that is popular with a few hundred people. Once 300-400 people, most of whom you've never met, actually care what you had for dinner last night or retweet your pithy observations about television shows, BAM. You have made it. Now is when you have to put in a bit of hard work, and try to block out the thought that being a micro-celebrity is sadder than a kitten with a broken leg, and soon you will be making cash money.

Step Two: Sizing Up the Competition

Very few of us will ever be up there at god-like heights with proper internet celebrities like Rebecca Black (you're welcome.) She found the kind of fame that the internet, in its great wisdom, only bestows on people three or four times a month, max. At best we should aim to eventually be on par with that one girl in the "Friday" video wearing pink and sitting in the back of the car that you see on screen for a total of four seconds. She's probably at a more realistic, attainable level of micro-celebrity.

bennicinkle.jpgA quick search and I learn that her name is Benni Cinkle. I also discover that within a day of the Rebecca Black video going viral there was a Facebook group dedicated to "the terrible dancer." Within a week it had 75,000 fans and Benni was building her "brand" with her own official group, website, twitter account, and organizing a charity flash mob dance. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that I gleaned all this information from an interview in the New York fucking Times.

Step Three: Lowering Your Expectations

Okay, so maybe writing profanity-laden articles for a popular movie and pop culture website will never get someone the fame and adoration that being in a crappy video for literally four seconds does. Fine. We just need to be more realistic. Here's an article/obituary in Vanity Fair on an octogenarian actor who finally got his "big break" online. You've probably never heard of him. But thousands of other people have, and that got him posthumously covered in a high-class magazine. That's all it takes these days. Jon Skeet can label himself a micro-celebrity because he was "popular" on the alt.books.stephen-king newsgroup. Seriously. So if anyone has ever paid any attention to you online, and you are a fame whore desperate for any kind of attention, you can probably just go ahead and add micro-celebrity to your resume.

Step Four: Making Sure Others Know About Your Status

Maintaining your micro-celebrity status isn't easy. The internet is so fickle. That's why you need to go around telling everyone how important you are. Our newsroom-famous Jon Skeet says, "Shouting loudly works remarkably well on the internet -- if you're among the most prolific writers in a group, you will get noticed. Admittedly it helps to try hard to post well-written and interesting thoughts."

Yes, you can get famous from posting crap. But, you know, maybe at least consider writing things that don't suck.

And if you don't know how to go about making sure others know just how super-awesome and famous and important you are, don't worry. There are people willing to take your money and then teach you how to do it. The creative marketing firm Pilla promises, for an unspecified fee, to make you a micro-celebrity by giving you a "distinct online presence" and creating "buzz" about you on social media. Just hand over your hard earned cash and soon you too can be a trending topic. Or more likely have a whole bunch of span accounts following you from India.

If you already have a blog but want to take it to the next level there are a disturbing number of conferences you can attend across the US, including the ultra-exclusive Bloggy Boot Camp, and webinars on "turning prospects into fans."

Step Five: Become the Brangelina of Micro-celebrity

One of the best ways to immediately move up the micro-celebrity food chain is to flaunt your connection with other micro-celebrities. Using Twitter, you can combine (or align with) celebrities, forming your own power-couple. It basically boils down to you, someone very few people have heard of, name dropping other people no one has heard of. Then the two of you can bask in how much your "fans" must care about the fact that two micro-celebrities are interacting with each other. Do this a couple hundred times and you might be important enough to get recognized at SXSW Interactive.

Step Six: Release A Sex Tape

Because really, that's just good sense.

Step Seven: Deal With The Attention

Since so many have been there before us, we have ample information on the day-to-day struggle of being a micro-celeb. Benni Cinkle, that girl from the "Friday" video, if you've already forgotten, offers a free Internet Survival Guide. Other micro-celebrities also tell of the painful side of being micro-famous. Peter Hirshberg, another micro-celebrity you've never heard of, feels like he has to be camera ready at all times, "like a very minor version of Brad Pitt." Blog pioneer Dave Winer says that with all the attention paid to his live blogs and even the things he says at "industry events" that he now feels "like a presidential candidate" and worries about making off-the-cuff remarks. According to Wired, "Some pundits fret that micro-celebrity will soon force everyone to write blog posts and even talk in the bland, focus-grouped cadences of Hillary Clinton (minus the cackle)."

That is how serious your completely mindless internet writings are in the world of micro-celebrity. It's like you are running for president except the campaign never ends.

Step Eight: Profit

Here's where all that back-breaking hard work becomes worth it. Here's where you rake in the money. And all you have to do is turn your online persona into a corporate whore. Your followers might have started out as people who think you make funny jokes sometimes but now they are nothing to you but potential cash cows. And you are going to take all the good will you built up with them and squander it by tweeting incessantly about Quick Trim.
You didn't go to business school. I know that because you are desperate for the few hundred dollars you might make from your micro-celebrity. But that means that you probably don't know how to monetize yourself. That's where even more people are willing to step in and help, for a cut of the profits. Companies like NonSocieyt and Open Sky let you write for them, usually without pay, all for the chance to shill Dunkin Donuts and Sony electronics. As Open Sky puts it, "What if we could just shop directly from the people we already like and trust?" Exactly! What if people you like for completely different reasons suddenly start trying to sell you things, not because they believe in them, but because they see their followers as nothing but potential dollar signs? What could possibly be bad about that?

So there you go: the dark world of micro-celebrity that none of us are powerless to resist. Or, as the Huffington post so succinctly put it, "Must. Get. On. Twitter. And. Attract. Thousands. Of. Strangers."



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