In the 21st century, the Internet age birthed a new form of celebrity. Just ask Alex Lee, a 17-year-old employee at Target, who gained over 755,000 followers in a day after a girl tweeted a picture of him bagging her groceries, using the hashtag “#AlexFromTarget.” Lee’s overnight popularity allotted him time on Ellen DeGeneres Show, among other shows and publications.
His social media influence helped him raise large amounts of money for his favorite charity, Just Love International, according to WFAA, a local news station in Dallas. Just Love International is an organization that raises community awareness and provides educational resources for children who cannot afford the luxuries of having them. In a video he released this February, Lee said he quit his job and is now going on tour with DigiTour Media, a touring music and social media production company, with other viral internet stars. In the mean time, Lee is selling posters, t-shirts and calendars on his website.
It has become commonplace for regular people to reach international stardom overnight in this day-and-age. Terio was a five-year-old who rose to Internet fame after a video of him dancing with his shirt off went viral in 2013.
TeRio instantly became a internet sensation, sending time with some of the entertainment industry’s elites. He was even featured in DJ Khaled’s music video “They Don’t Love Me No More.” TeRio released a music video of his song, “Oooh Killem” in May 2014 and gained 912,000 followers on Instagram at the tender age of six. He makes a career by charging thousands of dollars per appearance.
Vine is the newest form of social media that has people rising to Internet fame. Vine helped Bobby Shmurda get a record deal with Epic Records after a clip of him doing the Shmoney Dance was played millions of times. This turned his song “Hot N****” into one of the most frequently played song of summer 2014, with 30 million views on Shmurda’s music video released on YouTube.
Vine star Jerome Jarre made international headlines after he turned down a million dollar contract with an ad agency to promote brands on his account. Instead he kept his creative control and used his 7.5 million followers to start his own social media-marketing agency called GrapeStory.
Social media and digital marketing are the younger generation’s biggest tools to gain exposure in an increasingly technologically advanced world. Having a large number of followers alone can lead to a large amount of money. Companies are now offering Internet celebrities branding endorsement deals to market their products via their social media platforms.
“Social media is the most important [aspect] of branding in our generation right now and it’s not a costly process,” said Howard University legal communications major Roman Lawson, 21.
Instagram has recently joined the social media marketing world by adding sponsored advertisements to their platform.
“Companies now have the opportunity to reach the world on Instagram since they have begun to allow companies to advertise on their platform” says public relations major Diduric Jean Claude, 21.
As social media platforms become an even larger marketing focus, more internet sensations will pop up, hoping to use their internet fame to bring them them monetary gain and real-world success. The question is: who will be the next Alex From Target or TeRio?