Who Knew Hollywood Could Teach Us Lessons On Social Media?

It’s amazing once you get a group of influential, creative, and (well…almost always) outspoken group of people together for an event in the heart of Los Angeles. You get the Oscars. At this year’s 87th annual event, the world’s biggest celebrities came together and set the social media scene afire. Most of the time, the viral moments that we converse about the next day or week after are about the most outrageous speech or funniest moments of the show. This year’s event, however, had moments that have the possibility to make a difference, especially with Reese Witherspoon, Lady Gaga, and Giuliana Rancic + Zendaya. Each of these stars’ experiences easily provide examples on how social media can create this impact. Reese Witherspoon and #AskHerMore: The Ability to Influence At this year’s Oscars, Reese Witherspoon walked the red carpet with a different mission. Beginning with Joan Rivers’ coverage of the red carpet, every TV host asks women “Who are you wearing?” This catchphrase has become synonymous with red carpet interviews, which has created a large business for the fashion industry. On the topic of social media, various accounts and site links litter followers’ live feed directing them to view, rate, and judge these actresses’ gowns. Reese Witherspoon and others have become tired of this. Launching this campaign, Witherspoon spoke to ABC’s Robin Roberts saying, “This is a movement to say we’re more than just our dresses. There are 44 nominees this year that are women and we are so happy to be here and talk about the work that we’ve done. It’s hard being a woman in Hollywood, or any industry.” Cate Blanchett, Shonda Rhimes, and Lena Dunham also chimed in. These women, while they realize they need to promote these designers, want to support feminism as well, informing our society that women have worked for their place in the industry and deserve to talk about it – just like the men.

Lady Gaga and the Sound of Music: The Ability to Revive a “Business”

Before the show, Oscar viewers knew Lady Gaga was performing, but not in such the way she did. In commemoration for the Sound of Music’s 50th anniversary, Gaga stripped most of her theatrics and sang with her classically trained voice – something she doesn’t use as much in performances. Gaga became famous after revolutionizing the pop music industry with her edgy performances and risk-taking fashions. While she had many years of fame, after a less-than-popular 2013 record, Artpop, Gaga’s powerful career started to become unbalanced. To gain control, she decided to pare down her music identity, creating a duet album with Tony Bennett and now this stunning performance. After the performance (see below), most of the feedback was positive. Time Magazine published an article with the title “Lady Gaga’s Performance at the Oscars Could Redefine Her Career”. Social media might have saved Gaga. With the power to spread information, especially positive feedback in this example, one’s career can change very dramatically. This also holds true to businesses. We can use our favorite SM company, JetBlue, for example. With a strong social presence, JetBlue is able to gain trust in followers and create loyal fans, just like Gaga is (probably) hoping for after this performance.

Giuliana Rancic and Zendaya: The Ability to be Make a Mistake Giuliana Rancic made a mistake that she probably shouldn’t have. Being a host of E!’s Fashion Police, a satirical show commentating on celebrity fashions, Rancic and other hosts make fun of celebrities. Yes, some of their jokes are very rude, but they have to be taken in context of the show. One comment she made for their Oscars special, however, caused conflict. Zendaya, a Disney-star made famous, decided to sport dreadlocks on the red carpet. Rancid, on Fashion Police, continuing to joke around, made the comment that Zendaya “smells like patchouli oil … or weed.” As this offensive comment reached Zendaya, the teen star posted this message to instagram:

Other stars, including Kerry Washington, stood in support for Zendaya via social media after her response to Rancic’s comments. Rancid later apologized saying, “I’d really like to address something that is weighing very heavy on my heart. I want to apologize for a comment that I made on last night’s ‘Fashion Police’ about Zendaya’s hair. Now, as you know, ‘Fashion Police’ is a show that pokes fun at celebrities in good spirit, but I do understand that something I said last night did cross the line. I just want everyone to know, I didn’t intend to hurt anybody, but I’ve learned it is not my intent that matters — it’s the result, and the result is that people are offended, including Zendaya, and that is not OK.” Zendaya accepted this apology via Instagram. This Oscars story proves how easily social media can strip your reputation, even after apologies have been given. I believe this is a lesson that anyone can takeaway from this story, even businesses. if businesses aren’t careful about their messaging, they might lose customers and potentially hurt their businesses. It’s that easy. These three Oscars Lessons provide us with concrete examples on how social media can influences one’s career or business. While they are individual situations, we see, especially with the Zendaya/Rancic story, that communities are also affected. We need to be aware that we can make change and improve our careers, but also have mishaps along the way. What do you think of these stories? Do you see any other takeaways? While most see celebrities as totally different than us, these examples prove how similar we really are, using the lessons we learn through social media in a similar way.


  1. Jackson, I love that you talked about Reese Witherspoon’s #AskHerMore initiative. I feel that this nicely illustrates how SM is changing the way that celebrities can use their clout to create a buzz around positive actions. When I think of gossip surrounding celebrities, I usually imagine tabloids while in line for the supermarket — which are almost always very negative and never from a primary source. I like that SM allows for there to be that same hook for those of casual interest (instead of browsing tabloids, browse what’s trending on Twitter) for positive interests of celebrities. I think it’s amazing that SM can change other kinds of media (TV interviews) by making those kinds of media more “social.” Witherspoon’s intent of moving beyond superficial, throwaway questions about designers and delving into the profession and personality behind acting actually offers the viewers at home better conversations to view and to react to than designer names. Her example questions on her instagram pic definitely seem more engaging from a viewer’s perspective than “who are you wearing?” Great Post!

  2. Great post! Your examples show how social media is influenced by stars (Witherspoon), but also how they are dependent on the reaction of their fans on social (Gaga). Witherspoon’s campaign is one of a few in the last time that try to change the “usual” way people view others. She wants to be seen as more than just the mannequin carrying the dress around. I was also thinking of Dove’s #SpeakBeautiful campaign, that tries to ban posts like “Oh my god, she should not wear THAT!” The line between social media and the real world becomes more and more blurred. As a celebrity you have to know how to react to RL events – may they be good (Gaga) or not (Zendaya/Rancic). Otherwise your fans won’t be your fans for much longer. This shows again that stars without their fans are more or less ordinary people.

  3. Great post. I only caught a few minutes of the Oscars, so your blog informed me of a lot! The #AskHerMore initiative is awesome and I love that several women were on board with the idea. With such a wide audience for the show, using the red carpet interviews as a way to spread awareness is really smart. Furthermore, the rude comment of Giuliana Rancic is definitely something to learn from like you said. I think people often forget about how quickly a negative comment like that can spread online, as we saw with Justine Sacco.

  4. I like the angles you took, Jackson. Each example spoke to the value social can bring and how quickly support can be rallied. Where many can be vocal on social media with reactive comments and likes, so many people are simply viewing these posts. This is where businesses can have trouble assessing value to content. If viewers of social media posts do not immediately indicate with comments if they agree or disagree with the content, businesses have to watch what happens next. Do people end up buying more of Lady Gaga’s music or do less people watch “Fashion Police”? Social media can be so impactful, and sometimes the mass of silent viewers has the greatest impact.

  5. I think this goes hand in hand with a point I made in my presentation last week regarding how musicians use Social Media to demonstrate their own personality. Actors have a similar ability to embellish their values and their personalities by using social media to their advantage since they generally have a very large following. Even the smallest usage of social media can really increase an artist or actor’s image and interaction with the fans. There is nothing more appealing to an audience than interaction, and I think all three of the examples you’ve given prove that.

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