When social media rose to ubiquity in the 2000s, a range of fledgling platforms promised new and exciting ways to connect with people we knew personally. For better or worse, that ideal has been achieved: There’s no escaping status updates from our aunts or the political musings of that guy from middle school. But another kind of connection now defines social networks as well – engagement between celebrities and their fans (or haters, for that matter). Whether your followers number in the millions, the world of social media is a kind of digital democracy. Nearly everyone has an account.
In this project, we set out to see which celebrities engaged the most with average folks online. We studied the Twitter habits of the 100 most followed celebrity accounts to determine what proportion of their tweets tagging an “unverified” account belong to a regular user. Our results reveal which stars are most eager for fan interaction, and which steer clear of the crowd. Read on to see which celebs are most likely to reply when you shout them out on Twitter.
Ready to Reply
Regarding engaging with fans, no celebrity category does it better than actors and actresses. In fact, at 46.6%, actors were more than twice as likely than any other type of celebrity to tag an unverified account. While many of these tweets surely thrill their recipients, not all fans have pleasant Twitter interactions with stars of the silver screen. Star Trek fans recently beefed with Jason Isaacs over his role in the series’ revival, and Samuel L. Jackson engaged in a social media spat with a spurned fan after refusing to take a picture in 2016.
Athletes slightly edged out musicians for second place in fan engagement, with 17.8% tagging an unverified user. While some ballers mourn the empowerment of vocal fans on social platforms (“Every loser has an opinion,” Charles Barkley has complained), others may be a little too invested in swaying public opinion. Kevin Durant recently expressed regret for criticizing his former coach and teammates when defending his choice to change teams to a Twitter user.
Twitter’s Most Active Actors
When it comes to the actors and actresses who engage most with fans, one nation of origin leads the way: India. Indeed, the three actors who tweeted most to fans (and overall) hailed from that country, which represented Twitter’s fastest growing market in 2017. Bollywood luminary Shar Rukh Khan (@iamsrk) has earned the adoration of followers for his positive and personal posts, of which nearly 86% engaged with an unverified account. Meanwhile, “Quantico” star Priyanka Chopra (@priyankachopra) has harnessed crossover appeal in the Indian and American markets and garnered admiration for her philanthropic efforts.
While American actors tended to be shyer about fan engagement, celebs with decades of experience in the public eye were most likely to mix it up with average users. Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) and Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) each tagged unverified accounts about 15% of the time, while Jennifer Lopez (@JLo) did so in nearly 10% of posts. Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real), on the other hand, engaged fans in merely 1.6% of his tweets. That’s unlikely to change anytime soon, as the Twitterverse has responded savagely to his recent reports of infidelity.
Tunes and Tweets
Pop stars who have topped the charts in recent years also seemed to dominate Twitter, yet their patterns of responding to fans varied dramatically. Liam Payne (@LiamPayne), for instance, tagged unverified accounts in over 40% of posts, while his former One Direction bandmate Niall Horan (@NiallOfficial) did so more than 20% of the time. Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande), our most active tweeter, tagged fans in more than a quarter of her posts, but her “Side To Side” collaborator Nicki Minaj (@NICKIMINAJ) was far less fan-friendly.
Minaj is not alone among rappers in remaining aloof: Snoop Dogg (@SnoopDogg), Wiz Khalifa (@wizkhalifa), and Lil Wayne (@LilTunechi) each tagged unverified accounts less than 6% of the time. Pop artists were far more likely to tag fans directly, though many of our most Twitter-friendly artists predated the rise of social media: Britney Spears (@britneyspears), Alicia Keys (@aliciakeys), and Ricky Martin (@ricky_martin) all tagged regular users in at least 13% of their tweets.
Sports on Social
As on other social platforms, soccer fans have established a large and outspoken presence on Twitter. In fact, seven of the 11 athletes studied play the world’s favorite sport. Their enthusiasm is rewarded by engagement by some the sport’s biggest stars: Neymar Jr. (@neymarjr) and Kaka (@KAKA) each tagged unverified accounts in more than a fifth of their tweets. Some other international athletes hailed from another sport, however: Cricket. Two Indian players, Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) and Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt), ranked among the most followed in the world, though the former engaged fans far less than the latter.
Two hoop stars also appeared on our list, LeBron James and the aforementioned Durant. K.D. has long attracted attention for his willingness to debate fans directly via Twitter (including disputing some opinions about James). James’ Twitter activity has also inspired much engagement as of late, though largely for his political statements rather than insights related to his professional life.
Some celebs don’t fall neatly into any of our prior categories, but that doesn’t mean they can’t command a healthy Twitter audience. After all, while fans may struggle to define what the Kardashians do exactly, no fewer than five family members rank among the platforms most followed celebs. Khloe (@khloekardashian) is the most fan-centric sister, however, tagging an unverified account in 23% of her tweets.
In the political realm, President Trump (@realDonaldTrump) tagged far more followers than Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton). The president has run into his fair share of trouble for this egalitarian approach, including backlash to a recent retweet of a video depicting him hitting Clinton with a golf ball. It was a clip worthy of another frequent fan tweeter, comedian Daniel Tosh (@danieltosh), whose TV show depends on a steady stream of ridiculous videos apparently produced by average YouTubers.
Beyond Twitter Talk
While celebrities field hundreds or thousands of fan messages each day, our results show how often average folks get a little acknowledgment from their idols on social media. While patterns of celebrity fan engagement are anything but consistent, there’s no denying our data: Get their attention, and you’ve got a shot. After all, stars aren’t immune to the enticing array of distractions that social media offers. That’s part of the thrill of a star’s reply. They are proving they’re human, too, one tweet at a time.
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We analyzed the Twitter activity of the 100 most followed celebrity accounts on the platform. We then calculated the percentage of each celebrity’s tweets that tagged an unverified account to gauge their engagement with typical users.
Fair Use Statement
Whether you want to share this project with your favorite celeb or bring it to your own fans, we welcome you to use our findings and content for noncommercial purposes. When you do, please provide proper attribution by including a link to this page.