Ashton. Oprah. Britney. Martha. The single-name celebrities in the offline world who have parlayed their fame into huge followings online is no secret. But other entertainers are using social media to amplify a Web following to match their allure in the traditional arenas of film and TV. While smaller in scale, these online audiences are often more committed and extend a personality's reach into the most distant nodes of the Internet. When nurtured, the cyber connection creates a symbiotic relationship that takes the combined parts of the online and offline worlds and presents an exponentially more influential whole.
Olivia Munn is the former host of video-game channel G4's Attack of The Show and the author of Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek (co-written by Fast Company contributor Mac Montandon). She has a regular role in the new NBC sitcom Perfect Couples and also appeared in Iron Man 2, Date Night, on NBC's Chuck, and hosted Microsoft's Bing-a-thon launch on Hulu. In July, Munn started her job as the Senior Asian Correspondent on The Daily Show.
And she has 172,000 rabid Twitter followers.
I talked to Munn about the cyber migration that is growing in Hollywood.
"I recently had a friend of mine, a known actress, call me and say, 'I need you to help me get what you have," says Munn as she tools around her Los Angeles home. "And then she made sure I was perfectly clear on what she wanted, 'The Internet thing. I need you to help me get that.'"
At first, Munn didn't realize the power her online following gave her. Last year, she signed on as a spokesperson for the new Volkswagen GTI, and at a launch event VW reps asked her if she could help make the GTI a trending topic on Twitter. "I've never tried to trend anything on Twitter, ever," she recalls. "It creates anxiety for me, it's like, if I throw a party, will anybody come? I mean, I feel embarrassed when friends of mine go # and the name of their show and it doesn't trend. I'm like Dude, I can see that it's not trending, everybody can."
But she reluctantly agreed. "In my head I'm like, 'I'm paid to be here. That's enough right? Now they want me to Twitter? It's going to be so embarrassing.' But they were really nice, and I always want to do a good job. So my tweet was something like, 'Hey guys, I've never done this before, but can we try to trend this?' It was very honest, me talking to them. Not like, 'Hey guys, what's up? It's so fuckin' awesome. I love this car!'"
Thanks to Munn's nudge, the GTI became the No. 6 trending topic for the day. "I thought about that for days," says Munn. "Holy shit, how did that work? While some people might have a million followers, they're just following them. With me, I guess, they're true blue fans and friends and people that support me. So when I address them, I'm reaching out to them specifically."
As for her actress friend with the Internet ambitions, "I told her, I can create a blog for you and get you onto Facebook. We can get you onto Twitter, get the whole library ready. But there's an intangible that you can't buy and I can't teach. People on the Internet see through any dishonesty. So if your intention is, 'I want to get what you have. I want them to be my fans,' they'll never be your fans. Because they can feel that you're trying to use them."
Follow Mark Borden on Twitter at @marksborden.