Wednesday, 6 January 2010

A Tale of Two Phenomena: Reality TV and Social Media

Last night, I was flipping through channels, trying to watch 2 shows at once - Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (I heart Benson and Stabler) and Lifetime reruns of Grey's Anatomy (McDreamy!!!). But the flipping stopped at 7.30pm when I hit VH-1 and there was the season finale of "I Want to Work for Diddy" which I had missed due to sheer exhaustion the night before. There are a lot of things one can say about this show - like, how can a grown man and a grown woman have Diddy treat them like a couple of school kids in a spelling bee? How does a grown man not know how to spell legitimate? How much public humiliation are these people willing to take for a bit of fame and maybe a job? Seriously. It's addictive! lol.

I admit it. I love reality tv. Now don't get me wrong, I don't see any deep lessons in these shows, besides "I am blessed to have common sense", and reality tv does not keep me up at night with burning questions about current issues, but reality tv sure is entertaining. And not only is it entertaining but reality tv is making these networks a whole lot of money and giving these wannabe stars their 15 minutes.

And I think if you want to go further, reality tv is akin to social media in its rapid growth in popularity and ability to transform an entity from nothing to something in quick time. How many people knew about Twitter a year or so ago? How many know about it now? How many people knew anything about the Jersey Shore? How many people are googling it now because of the controversial MTV reality show of the same name?

More and more people are usinng reality tv to further their own personal goals. You have the average Joe who wants to be a star. Noone can tell me these girls who go on shows like "For the Love of Ray-J" REALLY think they will walk down the aisle with him one day?

If you're good enough, and you create a character compelling enough, you can segue into something else that can bring real financial returns. "Flava of Love" and "I love New York" made Tiffany Pollard a household name because this girl worked her brand. It may not be a brand that most normal people may want to be associated with, but it's HER brand and it clearly worked for her, to an extent.

Diddy himself is a marketing machine. The attention his reality shows have garnered have gone a long way I am sure in ramping up his personal image and that of his Bad Boy/Sean John/I love myself empire. The same goes for Donald Trump, the Kardashians, and all the other people who are doing a pretty good job at establishing and strengthening a personal brand via reality tv and our love for it.

Diddy has gone a step further via his Twitter presence. He is the self-proclaimed "King of Twitter" and pushes everything from his vodka, to his music to himself via the microblogging site. With over 2 million followers, he is getting his brand OUT THERE!

And then let's look at reality tv and social media and the question of hype and relevance. MTV has come under fire for not living up to its name - Music Television. When is the last time anyone saw a music video on MTV? I mean...seriously! They have reality shows all day about everything under the sun, most not even related to music. Reality tv is everywhere. On every network. Starring everyone - from washed up celebrities to fame-hungry small towners. And while some of the shows have been around for a long time and may be around for even longer - The Bachelor, The Amazing Race, The Real World  (yes, I watch 'em) for example - a lot of the others crash and burn because they just don't have the staying power or bring anything unique to the table or are so ludicrous that even the usual reality tv fun of laughing at silly people becomes obscene.

What about social media? I cannot tell you how many new social media sites I encounter or hear about every day. If you were to sign up to all these things, you would not have a life! And while Facebook and Twitter have really made an impression on people the world over, how many of the others are relevant? Depending on where you are in the world, some tools may work more effectively than others in social media marketing. We all know how huge Facebook is here in Trinidad, and Trinis are also blogging, tweeting, Youtubing and Flickr-ing, but how many Trinis know about Ning, for example? In business especially, you really have to understand your audience and what they may be interested in. So while you may think the hot new tool is fab, trying to force your enthusiasm on a target group , who may be just catching up with the Twitterverse is not the way to go.

It would be like forcing me to watch "Frank The Entertainer in a Basement Affair" which is such an agonising thought that I don't know where to begin in describing how annoyed I feel about it. I can't. I just can't bring myself to think of it.

p.s. There's an app for that! - did you know there is actually an app for I Want to Work for Diddy??? My God! What's next?


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