What if I told you that most social media handles of Bollywood stars are now an extended publicity arm of their “brand”?
Yes, that’s right. The famous “middle-men” who regulate a Bollywood actor’s “engagements” with the media have now stepped in to regulate an actor’s interaction with his fans as well. The barb ‘middle-men’, is not only intended at PRs who sometimes handle a Bollywood star’s social media accounts, but also towards a new breed of “professionals” called Social Media Strategists.
The social media handles of most Bollywood stars are now “controlled” by these social media strategists who “formulate” how a star will tweet and interact with fans. Simply put, these strategies figure out how to earn money or publicity.
You will argue, “What’s new in this? It has been happening all over the world, why will our Bollywood stars be any different?”
The problem is not that. The problem is: We don’t realise that Bollywood stars are not just talking to us on social media, they are talking business!
Social media communication demands a certain transparency of communication and it is missing in Bollywood.
Case in point: Superstar Rajinikanth
Perhaps the best example of a star Twitter handle managed by professionals is the Twitter handle of Rajinikanth. It made headlines when Rajinikanth decided to join Twitter. But the fact was: The superstar was never tweeting!
It was surprising that none of the media reports mentioned the fact that Rajnikant was not punching the phone buttons himself.
The mainline media promoted it as Rajnikanth’s Twitter account when in fact the Twitter account was licensed out to promote the film Kochadaiiyaan.
I was horrified when I found a tweet like this from his account.
The social media company had synced in an application that sent out this automated tweet from Rajnikanth’s ID. This tweet was soon deleted but as I had anticipated, an article appeared about the horrible holes in the social media strategy of the legend.
Rajnikanth’s twitter handle made its appearance before the release of his film Kochadaiiyaan and spoke little about anything else. The handle, as we had anticipated, is by and large silent these days.
Why only single out Rajnikanth? I just used him as an example. Almost all Bollywood stars (barring a few) have gladly handed over their Twitter and Facebook handles to a social media management companies to earn more money.
Bollywood’s strategy on Twitter
The most popular Bollywood celebrities on Twitter when Rajinikanth joined. Image courtesy: FirstPost, May 6, 2014
After a star expresses his willingness to cash in on the number of followers, it is followed with a series of meetings for effective handling of his social media accounts.
I spoke to two executives of social media companies handling Bollywood star accounts to find out how they monetize the social media handles and this is what I was told….
“We know that the followers are there to interact with the star personally and we let it be that way. The star continues to interact with the fans in the same manner that he used to when he started the account. We present a broad guideline to what he can tweet and what he cannot tweet. We immediately stop any sort of personal communication and make it official, without making it seem that way. So, its official communication in a personal tone. Our aim is to tap into the vast number of users who follow the star. They will buy or get impressed (this is an online marketing term) by anything that the star promotes. So, we promote movie teasers, give out exclusive film-related goodies or might even conduct a contest. For A-list stars, we follow a different but customised strategy where we make them endorse the marketing exercises by re-tweets or (Twitter) mentions. Twitter is a store-house of money, you only need to know how to extract it.”
Of course, the star Twitter handles are also used to refute allegations, post about events but those are done under “monitored circumstances”, as the executive points it out to me.
In other words, the Bollywood hero is slipping his hand into your back-pocket while you are busy worshipping him.
Bollywood’s strategy on Facebook
This is the best part. Most Bollywood stars are not on Facebook. They have different personal accounts and most of the verified pages that you see on Facebook are actually handled by their social media companies.
So, you will find that in most cases the star’s Twitter feed is synced into his Facebook account and whenever the star tweets something, it automatically appears on his Facebook page. In most cases, the star is unaware of his Facebook page even though he is sent a report every week about how it is being managed.
Most social media companies are not much interest in Facebook because of its new algorithm that prevents any post to go viral unless you pay for it. Usually Facebook won’t let you reach out to more than 5% of your followers unless you pay them. However, a few social media agencies maintain it well and create separate Facebook posts because they understand the need to nurture and create more followers on Facebook. But ask them and they will tell you that the star is blissfully unaware of what is happening there.
In short, the “star” sitting on the other side of the laptop putting up Facebook posts, might actually be an intern, fresh out of college.
Bollywood social media strategies on other platforms
Ranveer Singh is the latest entrant on Facebook
Very few Bollywood stars are on other social media platforms like Instagram or Google Plus.
Any big star on any other social media platform other than the ones mentioned above, have been paid to be there.
In short, you are not interacting with the star there but somebody else “managing” that account.
So, is it true that stars have stopped interacting with their fans personally? Hell no! Some still do and it is because they love to interact with their fans. The best examples would be Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Sonakshi Sinha.
But do they also have a social media strategy to promote brands or the films they act in?
Isn’t that a good question to ask next time they do that “quick q&a” on Twitter?
Disclaimer: All images of this post have been released through a PR agency for publicity and have been procured from public forums and social networking sites. Please inform us if any of the images used here are copyrighted, we will pull those images down.