Under the Influence

These celebrities make their phone numbers public

Meet the app that allows fans to text their favourite celebrities directly.
Paul McCartney is an investor and user of the app Community. (Photo by Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP, File) (The Associated Press)

Recently, there has been a trend where celebrities share their phone numbers on social media - telling fans to text them directly.

Of course, it's not their real numbers. It's an app called Community.

The app gives each celebrity a new number to use, where they can then invite fans to text and have a direct conversation with them. Celebrities like it because they are not reliant on advertisers or algorithms and there are no filters.

Fans like it because texting is private. And because trolls need the oxygen of an audience, they aren't on Community.

According to a social media analytics firm, the percentage of fans that interact with a post on Twitter is only 0.48 per cent and on Facebook it's just 0.09 per cent. On the other hand, 80 per cent of texts on the Community app are opened within the first three minutes.

In the middle of a Jonas Brothers show before 23,500 fans at Chicago's United Centre, one of the brothers used Community to text a few hundred fans and invited them to a private show at a small club later that night.

When actor Kerry Washington was flying in for the Toronto International Film Festival, she needed something to help her through a long day of interviews. So she used Community to direct-message her Toronto fans specifically to ask where she could get a great green juice when she landed. She received some great suggestions. Washington then offered TIFF tickets to a few of those fans and used Community to invite them backstage.

Paul McCartney offered his Community fans a special coloured-vinyl edition of his new album McCartney III. His offer had a 42 per cent click-through-rate and he sold all 2,000 albums in less than 10 hours.

Both Washington and McCartney are investors in Community.

While Community says it's not a marketing channel, it is a marketing channel. There may not be advertisers on it, but celebrities are using it to market to their fans. And the geo-fencing nature of apps like Community allows celebrities to target their texts to specific fans in specific cities at specific times.

Community makes its money by charging user fees based on audience size, which can pay off quickly if you're selling thousands of albums or filling stadiums.

And Community is not just limited to celebrities - there are athletes, business leaders, authors and public figures using it.

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Under the Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio, a 1969 Airstream trailer that's been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O'Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

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The Terstream Mobile Recording Studio. (Image Credit: Sidney O'Reilly)