One of the benefits of following your favorite celebrities or authors on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook or through their blogs, is that you can interact with them like you would one of your friends.
Unfortunately, this accessibility also encourages the notion that these highly visible people are your personal friends. Friends that you can make recommendations to, ask for favors from and expect to publish or create specifically for you. Should you?
I’ve been involved with social media (both professionally and not) for some time, but I’ve also worked with celebrities as well through my photography, Flamesrising.com and conventions. It still surprises me that online accessibility is creating strange expectations that include things like: reciprocal “follows,” personalized responses for every comment, charitable donations, invitations to dinner or things like free plugs for your work, agent referrals, critiques, etc.
Remember, that many of these celebrities have thousands – if not millions – of followers that they are trying to maintain. The primary reason why many people can’t respond to you, personally, is time. Engaging in internet activities can be a time sink, but especially when you have thousands of followers. For many authors, even though they don’t put in a 9 to 5 schedule, they need to spend their time wisely in order to meet deadlines and promote their own works. There are only so many charities they can support, and only so many people they can follow up with. For example, the sheer volume of responses to a single Tweet for people like Amber Benson, Neil Gaiman or Warren Ellis creates a situation where your response might get lost in the shuffle within minutes.
As part of the creative process, authors can’t provide individual critiques to fans because if they did — then they’d have to do it for everyone. Moreso than responding to a Tweet or a comment, critiques take time away from an author’s day. It’s also not uncommon for some fans to send story ideas. Unfortunately, that opens authors up to potential legal issues if they publish something similar to what you sent them, even if they didn’t read it.
That’s not to say that authors won’t interact with you or offer advice, it just means that anyone who is visible online can’t be everywhere at once. Many authors will offer up-front policies for what they will and won’t do (e.g. critiques, interviews or offering advice, etc.), but not everyone does.
So let me be very clear: I recommend not being “that” guy that has specific expectations from following people online in order to further your own agenda. Don’t. For just a minute, put yourself in the shoes of those you admire. Celebrities are not magical beings, they’re just more highly visible than other folk because it’s part of what they do for a living. That’s not to say that they don’t care about your comments or don’t want to interact with you, it’s just impossible for them to respond to even a few hundred people all at once.
Do you have any thoughts on the subject? Agree or disagree? Feel free to comment below.