Social networking can be a powerful tool for celebrities, and no one knows that better than Rihanna. The 24-year-old pop singer tweets a lot. She not only encourages her fans to buy her music and watch her videos, she lets them in on her daily life, posting photos of her friends and family.
Sometimes, she shares a little too much. She’s tweeted pictures of herself at a strip club and more than one shot that looked like the star was doing drugs. She happily curses a blue streak on Twitter. When MTV tweeted: “Yikes. @rihanna’s marijuana photos from Coachella spark controversy,” the star tweeted back: “@MTV Yikes … @rihanna ran out of fucks to give.”
Rihanna’s Facebook page is mostly a rehash of what she puts on Twitter, plus promotional material like plugs for her upcoming episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter. She has 59.6 million fans on Facebook and 23.8 million followers on Twitter, putting her at the top of our list of Social Networking Superstars.
We looked at the celebrities with the most Twitter followers and Facebook fans and added the numbers together to come up with our ranking. Most of the top 10 also made our Celebrity 100 list, which is a ranking based on earnings and buzz. Rihanna placed fourth on the Celebrity 100 with an estimated $53 million in earnings between May 2011 and May 2012.
The No. 2 Social Networking Superstar is Lady Gaga, who also landed in the top 10 of our Celebrity 100, ranking fifth with $52 million in earnings. With 28 million followers on Twitter and 53 million Facebook fans, she’s close on Rihanna’s social media heels. Gaga uses her Twitter feed to tell her Little Monsters about upcoming albums, tour dates and what she’s eating. Gaga got in trouble earlier this year when she tweeted: “Just killed back to back spin classes. Eating a salad dreaming of a cheeseburger #PopStarsDontEat #IWasBornThisWay.”
Although her tweet was refreshingly honest in a world where stars perpetuate the myth that they look the way they do just by eating egg whites and grilled chicken, it caused a stir because Gaga has been vocal in trying to get young girls to avoid the eating disorders she suffered as a teen. It didn’t turn off her followers though. Gaga is the most-followed celebrity on Twitter.
Almost all of the stars on our list are young pop singers. Soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, in seventh place, is the only athlete to crack the top 10. Eric Peterson, of Twitalyzer, says that pop stars tend to have the most followers because young musicians jumped on the social networking bandwagon before celebrities in other industries like film and television. There’s only one actress on our list, Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place), and she is as well-known for her singing career as for her acting.
“Lots of these folks are more active in the medium,” says Peterson of the pop stars, “staying engaged and giving their audience something to respond to.”
Most of these stars give their fans plenty to respond to by retweeting or sharing personal thoughts and photos. Eminem, who ranks third on our list, is a little more restrained than some of his peers. His main platform is Facebook where he has the most fans of any of our Social Networking Superstars: 60.3 million. But his feed tends to be heavily promotional with videos and plugs for the artists on his Shady Records label.
Justin Bieber, who ranks fourth with 26 million Twitter followers and 45.8 million Facebook fans, is more interactive with his online fans. He knows he has them to thank for his fame. Bieber was discovered on YouTube and is a child of social networking. He keeps his fans close by retweeting them and sharing pictures and thoughts from his travels. He’s also generous about listening to his fans. He follows 123,143 people. Rihanna follows only 843 people.