Commentary

Of Michael Phelps, Facebook Fans, And Q Scores

Please indulge this column full of Olympic-themed late-summer frivolity, but just can't quite get out of my head that Michael Phelps has more than a million Facebook fans. I was reading this on Mashable yesterday, and it made me wonder anew about what that really means in the context of eight gold medals, a gazillion world records, and a whole bunch of pending endorsement deals. Here's a guy that on Facebook, at least (I couldn't find an official MySpace Phelps page), currently outscores Barack Obama. Does that mean the wrong guy is running for president?


Of course not, but you know what I mean.

Seriously, though, you have to wonder when the number of fans a celebrity garners in the social media sphere will become more important to potential endorsement deals than the Q score, the measure of celebrity appeal administered by Marketing Evaluations, Inc. Certainly, there are currently more nuances to the Q score, which, according to qscores.com, looks at "A variety of key audience measures ... throughout the year for over 50 different demographic segments in the areas of personality and character appeal, program/network likeability, audience impact and current viewer emotional attachment."

On the other hand, you have to wonder when Q scores will become hopelessly outdated. I found one link, with no date attached for context, which ranked Phelps a 22 amongst an unnamed target demo, along with Rick Pitino, and two points below Nadia Comaneci, and alleged steroid user Roger Clemens. Meanwhile, according to Mashable, Phelps' name is "the longest running 'trending topic' on Twitter search."

This indicates that at some point more than a million Facebook fans and explosions in online searches will start to count for something, especially when the executives at a savvy company with which Phelps has an endorsement deal finds a way to leverage an online fan base into an online marketing phenomenon. That group will most certainly not include Sanctuary Day Spa, which wrote on Phelps' wall this morning (misspellings ruefully included): "Wants to make everyones skin look young fresh and pretty...come in and try a facial to rejuvenate your skin...We have viewed many of the photos on facebook and while many of them are very lovely many of you have problem areas that can easily be resolved with a skin fitness program...think about it ..."

Uh, maybe later.

But getting back to Michael Phelps and the social media phenomenon, we are still in the nascent stage of social media actually reaching its full promise in terms of how celebrities, and the marketers who cling to them, use it. You'd think that Sports Illustrated might've posted its Phelps cover on his Facebook page, or  Kellogg's, its cereal box. (Phelps isn't pitching Wheaties.) You'd also think that Phelps would have a very built-out presence at  michaelphelps.com, but the link is a shockingly underdeveloped page hosted by an entity called swimroom.com.

True, Phelps has had bigger fish to fry lately, but someone, like maybe his agent, hasn't grasped how important Phelps' online presentation could be. The Q score isn't obsolete ... not quite yet

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