Social Media Conundrum #12: Justin Bieber is popular, but he’s not influential?

I can’t believe I’m going to weigh in on this, but I saw a tweet from a notable social media analytics consultant in which the following was stated for the umteenth time.

Popularity does not equal influence…

I immediately thought, “Could Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga sell product”? Isn’t that influence?I then had to go look up a quick definition of influence.


ˈɪnfluəns/ [in-floo-uhns] noun, verb, -enced, -enc·ing.

the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others

First I wanted to check something on Twitaholic: The top 15 people being followed on Twitter.

This is a list of the top 15 most “popular” people on Twitter. Let’s look and see who could sell or who does sell product. Let’s pare the list down first.

We have Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian, Ashton Kutcher, Ellen, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Oprah, 50Cent, Ashley Tisdale and Selena Gomez. 12 Celebrities from the world of entertainment. Immensely popular. But are they influential? Can they produce a compelling action on someone to buy product? Could they change behaviors and opinions? Can they influence people to buy stuff?

Lady Gaga sells video sunglasses for Polaroid, headphones for Beats by Dre, phones for VirginMobile, and a host of items and services via product placement in her videos. All this adds up to roughly $5-$10 million per year.

Rather than quote the whole  article from Guy Kawasaki, read about Guy’s experience at a Justin Bieber concert and the machine behind his persona.

Britney has deals with Elizabeth Arden and Candies. Taylor Swift has deals with Sony and CoverGirl. 50 Cent has deals with Reebok, Vitamin Water, Right Guard, PlayStation, and Steiner Sports.

We could easily go through each celebrity on this list and view the products that they sell. They sell the products because they can influence buyer behavior based on their celebrity, based on their popularity.  Am I wrong? I know sales are one thing and fame is fleeting, but because of their celebrity and popularity they can influence buyer behavior right now. Right?

How can you possibly say no? Isn’t that influence? What am I missing here? Help me out.


4 thoughts on “Social Media Conundrum #12: Justin Bieber is popular, but he’s not influential?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Social Media Conundrum #12: Justin Bieber is popular, but he’s not influential? « Direct Marketing Observations --

  2. Of course popularity equals influence; otherwise why do all of these celebrities and sports stars receive huge contracts for endorsing products? However; I find it just a tad bit disgusting when the target audience is children. Not all of the names you mentioned pitch products to children but Mr. Bieber does indeed way heavy on the “popularity” scale for the young girls this week as his movie sales skyrocketed through the roof. That smells like influence to me.

    Sad to say that our society can be so easily swayed to buy a product or like a product just because a celebrity gets paid to talk about it.

    I never jumped on the Oprah book club train…just because she would plug a book on her show didn’t mean it was great literary style for everyone. But you would have never known that if you looked at all the book sales after she endorsed one or better yet added it to her infamous “book club”.

  3. Now I have something to look at. The moment I read this post(right now?) I started getting in touch with a few friends asking them the same thing! What am i missing here?! I’m giving it a few thoughts now and I was actually thinking why brands are not considering Justine Bieber and Lady Gaga after all the influence they’ve made. This is something debatable actually and I’m looking on which side am i going to be.

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