Wednesday, 31 October 2007


The adage that all publicity is good publicity is about to be put to the test. What happens when people in millions of social networks are talking about you, but saying all the wrong things? Is it really true that there is only one thing worse than being talked about, which is not being talked about? Britney Spears fame stretches across the planet and her last album sold over 600,000 copies according to Billboard whilst her new album Blackout is expected to debut at No. 1 with sales of between 200,000 and 300,000. But even this figure is a challenge in today's music market. The challenge is made even more difficult by Britney's controversial life. If she was a product (and she is) she would be a brand manager's nightmare.

The Google Trends chart shows the spikes in search activity when things go wrong for her. Every search reinforces her fame/infamy and cements her position in the social graph. Thus being in the social graph is only half the challenge. Your position in it can mean different things.

She's barely been out of the press. She is one of the fastest climbers on the Yahoo Buzz table and number two for searches on Yahoo. Buzz about her on blogs is also hotting up. The Technorati chart shows the growing buzz around her name in english posts on blogs. If blogs are a sort of lightning rod into topicality and conversation then Britney is getting people talking. What will be interesting is whether this turns into album sales. Or will it spell the end of her career?

It's not a precise comparison, but what happens when people start talking about a brand online, but say the wrong things? The people who populate the social networks are not passive receivers of our messages, they re-shape them and use them as cultural tools to construct perspectives that are meaningful to their personal experiences and social relationships. For kids around the world, at one stage she was an icon - now she is the gossip that comes with the morning paper.
This is perhaps a situation where somebody needs to tell her "baby don't hit us with it one more time"