The secret to viral success and online marketing is “eFamous.” What is eFamous? Ask any YouTube celebrity, some of whom make up to seven figures from their videos.

The Secrets to eStardom

Content marketers know full well that not all content needs to be informative. Just ask Jessica Venessa, the 22-year-old who says she makes six figures twerking. In fact, she gave up her career as a pre-kindergarten teacher to become a professional twerker.

Who knew such a thing was possible? More importantly, what can online marketers take away from this eFamous starlet?  

Here are a few takeaways from Jessica Vanessa and YouTube celebrities like Jenna Marbles, who is estimated to have earned six figures in 2012 alone:

Online celebrities are grassroots. In other words, there is a difference between aloof Hollywood celebrities and the eFamous, who became famous by connecting on an individual level with their fans. Fans identify with and follow these stars because these celebrities are real people who give back to them.

People follow people. People don’t want to interact with companies that try to act like humans. It’s true that huge brands have huge followings on social media, but ask yourself this simple question: do you get on Facebook to catch up with brands or with your friends?

When Pepsi canned its standard advertising in favor of a “revolutionary” social media approach, in the form of the Pepsi Refresh Project, it lost up to several hundred million dollars, according to one calculation. One reason, perhaps, is because Pepsi was trying to connect to its audience via a social medium. People want to connect and interact with other people, not brands.

Cater to your audience. As mentioned, people are better candidates for becoming eFamous. However, a programmer who develops B2B apps would hardly look to a professional twerker or Jenna Marbles if they wanted to build an online reputation. Rather, they should turn to entrepreneurial icons such as Gary Vaynerchuck, Tim Ferris, or Derek Halpern, who have built solid online followings in part due to their charismatic content marketing plans.

Being eFamous doesn’t replace paid advertising. Subsequent to the Pepsi Refresh Project’s failure, the chief executive of the company’s American division said they needed to return to television. Despite the fact that social media revolutionized the way people connect with and communicate with each other, it has not replaced advertising. In fact, as Hoffman points out, social media has become yet another outlet for paid advertising.

Tips for Businesses

Individuals, regardless of their industry, can generate online following by learning lessons from other online celebrities, but how does that help a business? 

As mentioned, a company can’t become eFamous, and disastrous results show what happens when they try. While mascots such as Ronald McDonald may work on commercials, people still know that mascots aren’t real people. It’s inadvisable to try making a company or a mascot eFamous.

There are simple ways to get around this, however.

Use talented people who already have a following. YouTube celebrities make their money because big companies pay them. These big brands recognize a couple things: one, it’s easier to find a celebrity than to make one, and two, people follow people. If your company wants to take advantage of online celebrity status as a marketing tool, hire talented people to connect with your audience base.

Online stardom can only take you so far. Online celebrity status does have its limitations. It is only good for appealing to a certain type of crowd: those who are interested in following celebrities. And not all businesses are able to benefit from an online celebrity…an IT company selling business-to-business cloud computing solutions, for instance, would gain less benefit than a consumer-oriented business.

Use online celebrities for promotion, but don’t turn them into sales people. And though celebrities may be entertaining, they aren’t always great at closing deals or selling products. They can be used to facilitate promotions, but once they begin listing the features of a product or service, they begin to lose the appeal that made them famous in the first place.

Send the marketers out of the room. Marketing is the name of the game here, but numbers and performance metrics can actually hamper an online star’s creativity. The more bogged down they become with rules and requirements, the less they’ll be able to present those qualities that make them famous. Wise companies give their online stars creative freedom and, as mentioned, only use basic promotional techniques such as ads or product placement.


Knowing your audience is half the battle. When you provide the right blend of information and entertainment to meet and exceed your audience’s needs, you stand a good chance of becoming eFamous and going viral.