<image: Flowing Systems by exper http://www.flickr.com/photos/exper/2016537402/>
Having bemoaned the influx of celebrities on to Twitter and the manner in which it warps dialogue, this post is about a more positive impact of celebrities. I've noticed that a few celebs seem to act as a focus around which conversation and dialogue concentrates. The ex-England rugby captain Will Carling is one such. During the rugby people who follow him on twitter use his tweets as a backchannel and counterpoint to the official commentary.
I've seen a similar effect with ex-footballer, Stan Collymore, (I didn't say the celebs were nice or anything), and during Comic Relief one of the few places for discussion was at Robert Llewellyn's twitter page (ex Red Dwarf actor).
One thing to note here is that these are middling celebrities, real megastars probably have too diverse an audience. Another factor is that their twittering doesn't seem to be related to direct commercial activity (Collymore is a talk show host, so his twittering can be seen as a related activity, but not for the others, although I'm sure they're happy for any work which arises from it).
In these cases it is very much about interacting with an individual – these celebrities are not broadcasting, but engaging in conversation. They are utilising what I suppose we must refer to as their 'personal brand'. In essence, their celebrity status acts as a social object around which the rest of us congregate.
Maybe this is okay for sport, but what about in education? Perhaps a similar model would work around particular subject areas, with popular academics. For instance, I quite like Brian Greene's books on string theory, if he had a twitter account (I don't think he does), it might usefully act as a sort of Great Attractor for ongoing educational debate. If we accept the personal brand theory then, what universities (or any organisation) needs is not a corporate twitter identity but a few of these social object personalities.