You might know the singer-song writer, Bruno Mars from the sensational hits, “It Will Rain” or “Just The Way Your Are.” Bruno Mars harnesses the power of social media by connecting with his fans online via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and Instagram. Bruno’s most prominent social media presence is on Facebook. In 2009, Bruno Mars officially joined Facebook and today he has over 26 million fans. This article draws upon scholarly works in order to analyze Bruno Mar’s identity performance from his social cues, taste performance, and visible connections on social media platforms, specifically Facebook.
In Personal Connections in The Digital Age, Nancy Baym defines social presence as a “psychological phenomena regarding how interactants perceive one another” and it’s attributed by the nonverbal social cues enabled by a medium in context to social norms that guide behaviors (Baym 53). Bruno’s Facebook Timeline displays a plethora of social cues that explain his actions in accordance to his fans (his imagined audience). For instance, Bruno’s cover-photo and ‘about me’ section promotes his new single, ‘Locked Out Of Heaven.’ The cover-photo also has an iTunes image linking to download the song, which clearly shows Bruno’s consumer motives towards his fans. Moreover, all of the posts have to do with his musical career. There are no life style posts or cultural signs not directly related to his musical image. Additionally, his posts hold more social cues like improper grammar, which reveals a casual, non-serious persona. For example, many posts do not capitalize the first word of a sentence. One might label that social cue as laziness… That being said his posts do link to videos and display pictures, which shows a technological understanding of the medium. Conversely, Bruno uses hashtags on Facebook and hashtags serve no purpose on Facebook.
Next, his recent Facebook Likes or “public display of connections as an implicit verification of identity” reveal more about Bruno Mars’s identity (Donnath & Boyd 73). His recent Likes include: The Twilight Saga (his song appears in movie), The Grammy’s, Atlantic Records (his label) and more. These connections obviously have to do with his partnerships or current career goals and do not reveal any differentiating personal interests. His tastes are influenced by socioeconomic-money or status and aesthetic factors-personality (Liu 4). In Alice Marwick’s article, “I’m More Than Just a Friendster Profile: Identity, Authenticity, and Power in Social Networking Services” she writes about how Facebook profiles are structured to display consumer tastes. Similarly, Bruno Mars has celebrity influence and is creating a brand image of some sort using Facebook’s structure to promote his partnerships knowing that his fans will consume his Likes.
According to Hugo Liu’s semiotic framework in “Social Networks As Taste Performances” Bruno Mars’s taste statement performed on Facebook is one of prestige. Prestige taste statements show the best side of someone like Bruno’s new album. Prestige also identifies with popular culture and changes with popular culture as well. Just like how Bruno’s Facebook promotion a few months from now will be tailored to his next album. Furthermore, Bruno’s Likes connect to popular culture and mainstream interests. There are no differentiating aspects of Bruno’s profile that separates him from other male pop artists. However, one could argue that Bruno’s profile displays small authentic tastes through his social cues of improper grammar but overall Bruno’s goal is to promote himself and current projects in the best light possible.
Moving to another platform, Twitter; Bruno Mars has over 12 million followers. After exploring Bruno’s Twitter he clearly uses it differently than Facebook. He displays heavier hints of authenticity throughout his Twitter profile along with prestige in order to establish himself as a respectable successful artist. His prestigious tweets are seen through his album promotion, cross channel posting, intentional rewets and replies. Interestingly, a lot of his tweets are carefree and funny (much less professional than his Facebook). His authenticity on Twitter is seen when he curses in his tweets because they show he is not perfect and is not trying to be. For instance, he tweets: “HOLY SHIT!” It seems that he does not imagine the same audience on Twitter than on Facebook. According to Erving Goffman’s “The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life (1959)” we are always performing and our performance depends on our audience. We gather feedback from audience and constantly update our performance. That being said, Facebook represents Bruno’s “front stage” behavior which is least offensive and his Twitter shows is “back stage” performance revealing truth (Goffman). This is because his tweets show more of his true-self . The impressions given off seem unintentional and are not managed (by publicists) like his Facebook page. Notably, there is an intrinsic conflict with self-promotion and the ability to connect with others on Twitter. Thus, Bruno tweets about his music and also tweets about random things. Hence, Bruno achieves a nice balance for presenting different selves on Twitter. Also, he uses random hashtags, promotion hashtags and endogenous hashtags. Endogenous hashtags only exists in the Twitter system because they are meant to spur tweets within the Twitter universe (Zizi Papacharissi). For example, Bruno uses the endogenous hashtag, #Monday. In Papacharissi’s article, “Without You, I’m Nothing: Performance of the Self on Twitter” she writes about the ideas of play and performance on Twitter. Bruno Mars uses Twitter as a site of play that’s clearly not meant to be taken too seriously. The hashtag: #Monday, is a form of game because it is a trending topic that Twitter users participate to use with one another.
Interestingly, Bruno Mars realized the power of his fans and online connections. On October 23, he revealed his new album cover on Instagram and promoted it across various online channels. It was his first Instagram post and was a great way to establish him on the Instagram platform. Bruno understands his imagined audience and their presence on Instagram. The one post grabbed over 450 thousand followers. This first post only displays prestige because he is promoting his album cover. Although most celebrities and brands on Instagram display authenticity by posting lifestyle pictures of daily activities promotion free. Fans create a stronger bond with these personalities through Instagram by “really” getting to know them. Instagram presents an opportunity for Bruno Mars to display an authentic taste performance as opposed to his prestige present on other platforms.
Bruno Mars has a prominent social media presence and each is managed differently according to his imagined audience and affordances/social norms of the mediums. Bruno’s Facebook page displays prestige while his Twitter shows hints of authenticity. He understands the causality of Twitter and connects with fans on a deeper level on Twitter. Bruno Mars will always have a conflict between self-promotion and he can display promotion to different degrees on each site to achieve a nice balance.