Twitting for vanity

Twitting for vanity
18/07/2012 Marcos Figueira

About fifty years ago, Andy Warhol anticipated that everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes. The willingness for fame is intrinsically related to vanity itself.

In the realm of the digital age, the barriers today for vanity (self) publishing, thanks to the advance of digital technologies, notably the internet, are incredibly low. Blogs, personal web pages and the social networking spaces (MySpace, Facebook, Orkut, Twitter etcetera), could be viewed as an enormous vanity arena, overflowing with amateur publishers, self-appointed authors and the most diverse self-centered personalities.

The premisse or hypothesis this article will explore is that the main motivation users find to engage in Social Networking activities is fundamented on vanity. For that matter, the method chosen is based on the Structured/Systematic Observation of 100 (one hundred) randomly selected Twitter personal users.

The research method

  • The study was focused on one hundred Twitter users, randomly chosen;
  • Only Personal Users were considered. Business accounts were dismissed;
  • The last (more recent) three posts of each user´s page/account were considered for the analysis, totalling 300 posts;
  • The Posts were classified as Vanity-related, Advertisements, News-related, Business-related or Other;
  • The study was conducted on Friday, July 17th 2009.

In order for a Post to be considered vanity-related it should be associated to the author´s feelings, thoughts, personal opinions or related to the “cult of the personality”.

The results/conclusion

  • Vanity-related Posts counted for 48,7 %
  • Advertisements Posts counted for 17,3 %
  • News-related Posts counted for 15,3 %
  • Business-related Posts counted for 14,3 %
  • Other Posts counted for 3,3 %

why people use twitter


The results indicate that a significant portion of Twitter members use their page/space to spread the word about their own selves. Even though the Research was conducted in a limited time-frame and considered a relatively small sample, it seems that a pattern has clearly emerged.

It would be interesting to extend this study and compare the results with the Brazilian users in particular. The premisse is that the percentage of users that “post for vanity” would still be more significant due to the fact that international users are more profficient in the use of Twitter for advertisement and business purposes than the Brazilian counterparts.

It is noteworthy though, that electronic authorship comes with the possibility of social mobility. What starts as a vanity operation can, with time, become legitimized and respected through complex social processes that we are only begining to be able to track. Social Networking publishing is simply a convenient starter mechanism, not a last resort for the self-centered or excluded user.

Marcos Figueira é sócio do Wyse Group, Brasil ( e professor da FGV (Fundação Getúlio Vargas) nas áreas de Marketing, Marketing Digital, E-Commerce, Negócios Online, Planejamento Estratégico, etc.