Internet Famous: Becoming an Online Celebrity

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November 30, 2009

Some people dream of being famous from the time they're quite young. They crave the spotlight, and will do anything to be the center of attention.

They want nothing more than to become a celebrity, to have legions of adoring fans, and to have their name recognized the world over.

For others, fame is a means to an end. They want to be famous so people will buy their product, hire them to do something they love, or to influence others to support a cause they really care about.

They see promoting themselves and becoming a celebrity as a way to further their career, business, or other efforts, and nothing more. In many cases, these people would prefer not to be famous if they could be as effective in other ways.

Whichever category you fall into, if you're reading this article you're probably interested in becoming an Internet celebrity. Read on to find out more.

Robert ScobleWhy You'd Want to Be Internet Famous

As mentioned above, some people want to be famous as a means to an end while others just want to be famous. But why would you want to be Internet famous instead of old-fashioned, mainstream-media famous?

Well, to some extent the question answers itself. Becoming famous in a traditional sense is hard.

It takes a lot of time and a lot of money in most cases.

In all likelihood, becoming traditional-famous will require you to move somewhere celebrities live (like Los Angeles or New York), spend all your time trying to gain media attention, and then it's hit-or-miss at best.

Unless you've got a family fortune, are incredibly gorgeous, and/or are incredibly talented and driven (and have a whole lot of luck on your side), you could spend years trying to get attention with no results.

Kevin Rose

But Internet fame is different. Virtually anyone can do it.

It doesn't cost a lot (most of the technologies you'll need to use are completely free, and those that aren't you likely already have access to). And it doesn't have to become a full time job.

Another great thing about Internet fame is that it's fairly easy to get your followers and fans to actually do something you ask them to do.

When you ask someone to buy your product or donate to your cause in a newspaper article, they're not in a position to do so immediately. They'll have to put the newspaper down, and either go to the store or go online and purchase or donate. In all likelihood, they'll put it on their mental to-do list and then forget all about it half an hour later.

But with Internet fame, if you ask someone in a blog post or a tweet or a Facebook update to click on a link to buy something (or donate, or read something, or share something), it's very easy for them to follow through. All they have to do is click. It makes immediate action that much more likely.

Some Initial Preparations

Taking a week or two to make some initial preparations before you start your quest to become Internet famous can save you a lot of headaches and hassles down the road. There are a few things you'll need to do to optimize your chances of success.

Choose a Niche

First of all, you'll need to have a niche. It's pretty tough to become Internet famous these days if you're trying to appeal to everyone.

If you have a product or cause you're trying to promote, this makes choosing a niche easier (you want to appeal to those people who would be your customers or donors). But if you just want to be famous to be famous, you'll need to give it more thought.

Pick something you're interested in or knowledgeable about. Whatever you do, make sure the niche you choose is something you're passionate about. That passion will shine through in your online activities and help get your followers excited.

Also, try to adapt your personality to appeal to your potential fans. This doesn't mean you need to change who you are, but simply to emphasize one or another aspect of your personality over the others.

Take a Good Profile Photo

A good profile picture or avatar is really important. You should take a photo that shows you in the light you want to portray yourself in.

If you're trying to come across as professional, make sure your avatar pic is professional. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to have a photo that's stuffy, but it should reflect a professional attitude (see the photo below for a good example).

If you're trying to become famous in order to help stop global warming, make sure your profile picture doesn't show you sitting in an SUV (even if it is a hybrid). If your online persona is supposed to be wacky or crazy, make your profile pic reflect that.

Social Media Technologies to Use

So you've decided to become an online celebrity. That's great. But you're probably wondering how, exactly, you're supposed to do that.

Below is a great list of the social media technologies out there and how you can take advantage of each. This is an abbreviated list and doesn't include everything to know about each, but it's a good starting point and will get you going in the right direction.

  • Blogs
    If you're considering becoming an online celeb, you really need to have a blog. Whether you choose to go with a free, hosted blog (like or Tumblr) or host your own, a blog is an important part of your online presence. Use it to let your fans know about all the things you're doing online and off.
  • Microblogging
    Twitter or similar services are another important place to share information about your activities with your fans. Twitter is the most popular, so an account there is probably your best bet.
  • Multimedia
    Branching out into multimedia content can go a long way toward getting people excited about what you have to say. Consider video (including video blogging, aka vlogging), podcasts, or even photo sharing to become even more known.
  • Social Networks
    You'll want to join at least one social network, and depending on your niche, you may want to join more than one. There are two basic kinds of social network: general networks that attract a wide range of people, and specialized networks that focus on a particular subject area or niche. Join a general one (Facebook is a good all-around option; MySpace is good if you're somehow related to the music industry; LinkedIn is best for professionals and corporate types), and any specialized networks that are active in your niche.
  • Social Bookmarking and News
    Using social bookmarking and news sites can be a great way to get your content out to potential fans and followers. If you build a reputation for disseminating high-quality content, other users will be more likely to vote up or share the content you submit.

So now that you know which platforms you should check out, how do you make the most of them?

Well, the short answer is to consistenly create high-quality content. Think of what your fans potential fans are interested in. What kinds of content do they like? What kinds of things are they looking for online? What are they not getting anywhere else?

Answer those and you'll have a good idea of what you need to do to keep your fans happy and gain new fans.

Creating Your Social Media Strategy

Creating a strategy for your social media efforts can really pay off. Rather than taking a hap-hazzard, shotgun-style approach, come up with a plan for how to best-focus your online efforts. By doing this, you'll waste less time and likely see better results.

Start out by deciding which technologies you want to use. Blogs are a must, as are social networks. Microblogging is another one you should seriously consider. But what you do beyond that is entirely a matter of personal choice. Think about it and decide what you're most comfortable with. Not everyone likes doing video or audio. Not everyone is a great photographer. That's fine. You don't have to be to be Internet famous.

Once you've decided which platforms you want to use, and have signed up for accounts on each, you'll want to decide how much time you can devote to your efforts each day.

Keeping a blog updated on a regular basis, participating in social networks, and microblogging can all be done in an hour a day or less (though you should probably break that down in two 30-minute sessions or four 15-minute sessions for better results and to give the impression you're active a lot more than you really are).

If you want to do podcasts or videos, you might want to devote another couple of hours each week to their production.

Let's say you're going to spend an hour each day, in four 15-minute chunks. Your social media strategy might look something like this:

  • Morning 15 minutes: Check Twitter and blog comments. Send out a tweet or two. Respond to comments.
  • Lunchtime 15 minutes: Write a blog post. Send out another tweet (announcing the post preferably). Update status on social networks.
  • Afternoon 15 minutes: Update status and tweet. Check for more blog comments and respond.
  • Evening 15 minutes: Update status and tweet.

It's a pretty simple strategy that aims to keep you in front of your fans throughout the day.

There are various tools that can help you do these things faster (like TweetDeck or, which let you update your social networks and Twitter at the same time).

There are also services where you can pre-schedule updates, spreading them out over the whole day even if you're not online. Take advantage to the technology you have available to you to simplify and automate your social media efforts as much as is practically possible.

You might not have dedicated times to update your online activities. If you use a cell phone to update your status or to tweet, you'll likely be able to post updates throughout the day. Or you might dedicate a couple hours each weekend to writing blog posts for the week.

This can make it quite a bit easier to stay updated without having to dedicate blocks of time to these activities. Just make sure you're consistent, and that you post updates on a daily basis (keeping a daily checklist of sites to update can be helpful).

Keys to Internet Fame

So, you've got a Facebook account, a Twitter feed, and a blog, and you update them all regularly. Is that really all there is to it?

Well, yes and no. Becoming Internet Famous requires a bit more than just regular updates. There's no tried-and-true formula that will work every time.

It's going to depend on the platforms you use, how much time you can devote to your efforts, and a bit of luck. But here are some key things you can do to improve your odds.

  • Let your personality shine through
    Everyone has a personality, and one key to setting yourself apart is to let yours show. Don't be afraid to let your followers and fans see the real you. When someone feels like they're dealing with a real person, rather than someone who's faking it for attention, they're more likely to become a true fan, someone who will become an advocate for you and your content and push it out to their own friends and followers (thereby creating an even bigger fanbase for you).
  • Engage your followers
    When you start getting some Twitter followers or Facebook friends or blog commenters, make sure you engage with them. Have conversations. Ask for their input. Respond to what they're saying. This makes people remember who you are more easily, and makes it more likely they'll turn to you when they need advice in your area of expertise.
  • Be passionate
    If you're passionate about what you're doing and what you're talking about, that will be evident in the content you produce. Fans and followers like someone who is passionate about what they do; in fact, it can be contagious. If they see that you're really into something, they're more likely to want to find out why you love it so much and to become interested in it themselves.
  • Make your fans care
    This is really an extension of the previous two, but give your fans a reason to care about what you're doing. This is done through being authentic and building trust among your fans (so they know what you're saying is real), being passionate about what you say and do, and asking for their input, advice, and take on what you're doing. If you involve your followers in your online life, rather than simply using social media as a soapbox, you'll quickly turn casual followers into fans.
  • It's a process
    You're probably not going to gain Internet fame overnight. While there are some who have done it, many of them have gone on to become one-hit wonders, better known for some extreme antics, embarrassment, or humiliation than for anything worthwhile. Instead, look at the long view when it comes to building up a fan-base and really cultivating a following that will not only know who you are, but will care what you have to say.
  • Know when to call it quits
    Not every effort you make online is going to be successful. Maybe you'll find after doing a few podcasts that it's just not your thing. Or maybe you'll find that even though you're enjoying something, it's just not providing any results (make sure you give these things a few months though, as some take a bit longer to catch on). Maybe you'll even decide that there just aren't enough potential followers out there for your chosen niche (or that they're all too preoccupied with someone else in your niche that you just can't seem to outdo). In any case, know when it's time to move on to something else. This doesn't mean you need to give up your dream of being Internet famous, only that you need to re-evaluate how you're going about it and adjust your strategy.

If you still want to know more...

The information above only scratches the surface of what you can do to become Internet famous. For more complete information, check out my book: Internet Famous: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Online Celebrity.

Written exclusively for WDD by Cameron Chapman.

Are you Internet Famous? Please share with us what strategies have worked best for you...

WDD Staff

WDD staff are proud to be able to bring you this daily blog about web design and development. If there's something you think we should be talking about let us know @DesignerDepot.

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