If you follow Lindsay Lohan on Twitter, you might have noticed that her feed is peppered with thinly veiled ads for designer goods. The latest? "Are you kidding?? Burberry’s on sale today on Beyond the Rack! Just bought a scarf and hobo!! Bring it on!!"
The troubled starlet owes $600,000 in credit card debt, so it's no surprise that's she's taking money from wherever she can get it.
While LiLo's sponsored tweets are generally denoted as ads at the end (her feed is starting to look like my spam folder), many celebs are paid to tweet for brands more subtly, and they're making bank for typing out those 140 characters to their followers. "Whenever a celeb mentions a product or a place or a club they're being paid--that's what advertising has become," says Cooper Lawrence, author of The Cult of Celebrity. "A lot of companies will pay a yearly salary--like 200K for the year--for a certain amount of tweeting, commenting on your blog, and being seen out with the product. Usually when a brand has a sale or special product they're endorsing, the tweet will mirror when the product is being pushed."
Paris Hilton, the Kardashian sisters, and the cast of MTV's The Hills rank among the worst pay-per-tweet offenders. The price tag of a celebrity tweet varies depending on their star power and number of followers (and yes, some tweet for free). Kim Kardashian reportedly earns $10,000 per tweet--plugging QuickTrim with a fervor, natch, but also tweeting about how much she loves her "LNA shirts and leggings!!!!" to her nearly four million followers. The cast of the Jersey Shore can't command the same fee. Sources tell us that some brands simply pay their celebrity twitterers in swag.
Brands make efforts to align themselves with celebrities who fit their image, Lawrence says, like Kitson and Paris Hilton. If the celeb fits the brand, the tweets, theoretically, should appear seamlessly integrated into their Twitter stream. But it was hard not to notice Paris's love for Kitson when she recently tweeted that she was "Pulling up to Kitson" at 7:01pm on July 17th, "Leaving Kitson" at 7:35pm, and then the next day tweeted a paparazzi shot of herself drowning in Kitson bags.
(And on a slightly unrelated note, Lawrence mentioned that Starbucks is one of the worst offenders in terms of paying celebrities to be seen with their cups, which makes me wonder about the Olsens' permagrip on their coffee....)
The bottom line is that fashion brands, boutiques, and sale sites--just like clubs, restaurants, and other products--are using celebrity twitter feeds to market their wares.
And if you're a B, C, or even D-list celebrity, why not?
"If you're in the business of just being famous, you'll take a check where you can get it," says Lawrence. "Fans aren't going to buy your album because you don't have one--all you have is your twitter page."
UPDATE: We just received the following statement from Kitson: "We pay no one to talk about Kitson. Celebs talk about there [sic] brands at Kitson like Kardashian and her jewelry line but we do not pay them."