March 27, 2009 — -- Usually, Hollywood sets the trend: the week-long juice fast, the handbag almost as big as the starlet carrying it. Once in a while, it latches on late.
That's the case with Twitter. Over the past few months, an account with the social network, long a favorite of Silicon Valley, has muscled its way onto the A-List's list of must-haves, along with a self-named liquor and signature fragrance.
Lance Armstrong, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, P. Diddy, Martha Stewart, John Mayer, Ellen Degeneres, Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, Jimmy Fallon and Perez Hilton count themselves among the celebrity "Twitterati," updating accounts themselves or sometimes, employing ghost Twitterers/assistants to do the dirty work for them.
Armstrong and Kutcher thrust Twitter further into the spotlight this week when the bike racer used it to update his fans about the status of his collarbone injury and the actor used it to update his fans about the status of his wife's age-defying behind.
Twitter mania has reached into some of the loftiest levels of society. Britain's Queen Elizabeth tweets, with the help of royal staffers . And Barack Obama, who began twittering during the election campaign, issued the first presidential tweet this week.
Why has Twitter eclipsed blogging as the rich and famous' choice form of fan communication? According to Griffin, star of "My Life on the D-List," Twitter's 140-character per message limit is perfect for scatterbrained celebrities.
"I think that is key to celebrity-dom, because if you let celebrities go on and on, you'll have a list that's longer than anything anyone wants to read," she said. "It puts a limit on celebrities' verbiage."
"It's really proving that the ADD of society has gone so far that we can't even pay attention to blogs anymore," said fellow comedian Cho. While her tweets may be limited in length, they're not limited in scope.
"I Twitter about gross stuff like bowel movements, the state of my intestines. It's a very dramatic opera, me and my intestines," she said. "I have no boundaries. I have no need to censor my twitters. I don't feel weird having everyone know I have diarrhea."
Whether it's updating followers (people who sign up to receive status updates) about one's digestive tract or holding spur-of-the moment scavenger hunts to give away goodies to fans, celebrities harness their Twitter followings in myriad ways.
Twitter: Good for Giveaways, Random Musings
"I've used it to give away tickets. I've used it to hold contests," said Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. "Sometimes it's late at night and I don't have an idea of what would be a good movie to watch, so I ask people on Twitter and within five minutes I have 10 suggestions."
Navarro returns the favor, too. Earlier this week, in response to a fan, he tweeted, "Best thing for a Vicodin withdrawal ... Season 1 of "Flight Of the Conchords," referring to the cult favorite HBO show.
"It's a way to bypass all the bulls**t," Navarro went on. "It's great to have an immediate way to respond to something that's happening that isn't some lofty blog entry. There are arguments that Twittering is just like screaming into an empty vacuum, but the reality is that the people who are following you want to hear what you have to say."
"Twitter is my way of keeping up to date with my fans. I can respond to Twitter much quicker than if I was using MySpace," said adult film star Sasha Grey, who's starring in Steven Soderbergh's upcoming "The Girlfriend Experience" this spring. "We live in a sound bite day and age, and [Twitter] is quite fitting."
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs has been using Twitter to disseminate "The Diddy Code," his thoughts on how to live, to his almost 300,000 person following. Earlier this week, he tweeted:
"THE DIDDY CODE: "You get what you give" Imma send yall 1 diddy code a day. Just some things I live by. Not that u have to do the same"
"DIDDY CODE: Don't HATE CONGRATULATE!!!! Let's go! Let's go! Let's go!!!"
"Also FOR The record: I ALSO LOVE WOMEN OF ALL SHAPES AND SIZES!!!! Let's go people!!! We are all BEAUTIFUL children of GOD!!!"
One's level of fame in mainstream society doesn't necessarily translate in the Twitter microcosm. While Diddy, a rap industry mogul, boasted an impressive 290,000 followers earlier this week, Perez Hilton, a celebrity blogger, beat out his fan base with 305,000 followers.
Stars Seek Twitter Experts
Perez uses Twitter not only to connect with his followers but also to keep tabs on his blog's celebrity subjects.
"They're a lot more unguarded on Twitter, especially because they can update it easily from their phones," he said. "So there could be celebrities that are drunk twittering, that are twittering high. It's a more direct means of communication that bypasses managers, studios, publicists -- it's good and bad for celebrities."
Authenticity sometimes becomes a question on Twitter. Accounts purporting to belong to Courtney Love and Lindsay Lohan gained media attention earlier this month for their flurry of seemingly alcohol/substance-induced tweets, but neither their publicists nor anyone close to them would verify that the stars were indeed behind the messages.
"I once met Mary Kate Olsen at a nightclub and later got a message from her, but I find it hard to believe that Mary Kate Olsen's following my Twitter," Griffin said.
So they're still ironing out the kinks. But with its immediacy and mobility, Twitter is likely to be a celebrity favorite for some time, at least until the next new hot micro-blogging network comes along to eclipse it. Griffin said she's committed to learning the ins and outs of Twitter from an expert.
"I'm hanging out with Paris Hilton for an episode of 'The D-List," and I would assume that she would be very into the Twittering, so I will get a lesson from Paris Hilton," she said. "You're not going to find many people saying they're going to get a lesson about anything from Paris Hilton except maybe a lesson on how to make a sex tape, but I will have Paris Hilton be my guide and I will get her to Twitter with me."