18/11/2011 05:14 GMT | Updated 17/01/2012 05:12 GMT

Celebrity Endorsements Do Not a Platform Make

A few months ago, Specific Media acquired MySpace, the old social networking platform that has been shedding users like Tony Blair sheds political allies. At the time of the acquisition, the company had a lot of plans for how it was going to make MySpace new again, a neo-MySpace, as it were.

Their most exciting item backing this neo-MySpace? Justin Timberlake was "on board" with it.

Well, fast forward a couple of months and Specific Media is laying off 8% of its workforce, the entire MySpace crew. Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake is in talks about starring in a sequel to The Social Network, a movie about Facebook. OK, he might not be, but the point is clear: his stardom did nothing to make neo-MySpace a reality.

Star power does not make a platform viable, realistic, or popular. It's a nice bonus when you can get it, but it doesn't actually make the platform a success.

Let's turn to Twitter. Did Twitter become famous because Aston Kutcher joined up and got a million followers? Was it a success because Oprah talked about it and spent 15 minutes of her attention on it? Does the fact that President Obama supposedly has a Twitter account make the site a success?

Nope. Twitter was a success before all of those things happened. It was already gaining exponential numbers of users when Kutcher jumped on board. It was one of the world's largest networks well before Obama's personal use of it became public. Twitter is a success because it's a platform that is both useful and open to exploitation for many uses. Twitter is used by marketers, businesses people, store owners, school kids, parents, lawyers, military personnel... everybody. And all of them have different uses for it.

The same goes for Facebook. No famous celebrity attachment made Facebook the most popular social network on the planet. It became so because it's a great platform for networking with friends or people of similar interests.

Time and again in the past we've seen startups and what we in the business call "hype platforms" appear and announce themselves as the next best thing because Celebrity X loves it or is behind it or is a partner... Most of the time, these new platforms fizzle and die before really getting out of the starting gate.

Having celebrity endorsements is great for any product, but not as the product's only marketing point or reason for existing. Can anyone name Shaquille O'neil's cologne? How about Katie Price's fashion line? No Googling. Just off the cuff. Ya, I had to look them up too.

The point is, those lines are not popular because they only had celebrity endorsements as their gimmick. The celebrity does not the platform make.