It seems as though I've been spending a lot of time with my new "friend" Jane Fonda, who is all over the place these days, including her first Broadway show in 46 years, the glum-appearing 33 Variations.
Recently, @janefonda Tweeted to me -- me! -- about her new unctuously headlined press release, which was largely about a "social media evangelist" (his wording) named James Andrews.
La Fonda has started to follow me. Thankfully, I am told her middle name is Seymour and that she thinks about her Dad a lot, particularly backstage at the new show.
Strangely, I've also read these same thoughts in printed interviews with Ms. Fonda. Now I am wondering: Am I being hoodwinked?
Jane, is that really you, or is it a Jane facsimile?
Here is the issue: Stars cannot just show up online and expect to succeed. It takes work! Social media means getting to know someone--not hiring someone to fake it like celebrities always do.
Back to Jane. One day Jane Tweeted about the press release being ready and sent me to it. The press release with the headline LEGENDARY ACTRESS LAUNCHES BLOG AND TWITTER PROFILE was really about Andrews, the dude who developed Fonda's whole "blog strategy." He's the one JSF hired to make her look oh so cool.
These gurus (really?) are social media wanabes who help stars infiltrate the Twitterati. It is something we'll be dealing with for years to come. You've got to figure that smarty-pants who can put someone else's most intimate thoughts on the Web are planning to make a lot of money with celebs. Take the dude who works for Britney Spears, who posted an online ad recently asking for someone to "handle all social media aspects" of her life.
Granted, sometimes the messages seem like the actual senders': Shaq (@the_real_shaq) tweeting obliquely "any 1 touches me say yur twit gets 2 tickets... gotta touch my right shoulder!" Or Lance Armstrong telling us "OMFG, my bike got stolen."
No doubt publicists are going nuts having to compete with a social media (warts-and-all) world. And like you I saw the Times piece on ghost-Twittering but....this is really a personal problem because right now, alas, we are watching stars or social mediators tell us things we really do not want to know ("Seymour?") and making us question if it's possible that Ashton Kutcher is as dumb as he seems on his blog. Oh, and it's not possible!
Whether they participate directly or not, social media is only the latest in a long list of online attention-getting vehicles for household names. Lest you forget, stars are actors -- so which one of them are you dealing with at any time? Celebrities are being looked at all the time. They get used to it. I hasten to add, most crave it.
I remember how a few years ago the dude from multiplatinum pop band Fall Out Boy went for the attention button and pretended that a friend took a picture of the of his.. er... member (don't ask what he was doing to get the shot) and sent it around on the Web. A lot of us PR kinds watched with sideways glee. Would this stunt blow up in the FOB's, face? It did not. He married Jessica Simpson's sister and now hosts VH-1 shows. I was surprised to find out that he is still a full-time member of the band, and still its lyricist.
Since those days, it seems a lot of stars who used to show up crapped out at parties to get attention (Tara? You there?) simply send an emissary to rant and get play for giving away so-called secrets on the Web.
Gee, Nicole Richie is pregnant! Her man "Joel" told us on his podcast. Oh look, there's an Oscar winner talking about how heavy the new award is on her Plurk feed. These social evangelists sure know how to work us.
And yet, I am a little peeved at Jane. I'm sure that guy on the release will be upset to hear someone has figured out that we're being played -- or is it that she's being played by him? It's kind of awkward and confusing.
In the end, it does not really matter to anyone, because Jane is back and, as she tells it, better than ever. Besides, she's a genuine treasure - she inferred as much. And I know Ted Turner misses her a lot while he tours the nation these days in support of his new and expensive autobiography.
How can I be so sure? I saw Ted say it on my FriendFeed just a few seconds ago.
Follow Richard Laermer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/laermer