Stars’ personal access to twitter means they have a chance to communicate with their followers in a genuine manner, and not through the mechanisms of a PR agency. While some Bollywood stars such as Salman Khan use this opportunity to provide fans with an intimate look into their personal lives and thoughts, there are others who have undertaken the role of their own PR agents and use the site for endorsements.
Last week model Genelia d’Souza accompanied the release of her movie debut, the Malayalam film Urimi, with a torrent of tweets including favorable reviews and positive feedback she had received for her performance. The campaign clearly worked, and ‘#Urimi’ became a trending topic on twitter. D’Souza triumphantly retweeted the statement, “Urumi is Trending on twitter [India Trends]. Wow. 😀 Thanks to all the fans who made it possible. You all rock! :-)”.
Followers of celebrities are also treated to surreal twitter conversations between stars. The rich and famous are hardly using twitter to save on phone bills so it is more likely the publicity of the tweets are used to subtly promote one another. Actor Dia Mirza is a large advocate of public correspondence and tweeted on March 31, “Here’s wishing @DuttaLara and her team of ‘Chalo Dilli’ the best! Trailer out today :)”. To which fellow actor Lara Dutta replied, “@deespeak. Thankyou my darling :-)”.
Meanwhile, movie star Bipasha Basu regularly endows her followers with links for trailers to her new movies and music videos. Director Farah Khan justified this by describing Twitter as the best way to get direct feedback from cinema lovers. “We are making films for them so it only makes sense to give them first access to our film promos and stuff”, she said.
There is suggestion of Basu giving publicity to companies she works with. On March 8 she tweeted, “Say hello to @madowothair, the people behind my hair for the last six years.” Earlier this year English model Liz Hurley tweeted herself into trouble with the British Office of Fair Trade after she included numerous references to cosmetics company Estée Lauder in her tweets. UK regulations state that stars must indicate when their tweets are being sponsored by adding ‘spon’ or ‘ad’ and the trade office was attempting to crack down on product endorsements on Twitter.
Over in America, an industry has grown out of tweeting and it recently emerged that Charlie Sheen, with 3,350,000 followers and counting, is being sponsored to tweet by American company Ad.ly. It has also been reported that the popular tweeter Kim Kardashian, sponsored by the same company, earns over $10,000 for every product tweet to her near seven million followers.
Despite the lucrative potential of tweeting there is no evidence that Bollywood actors tweet for cash, preferring it as a marketing tool and a communication platform for self-promotion. Actor Dino Morea sees nothing wrong in this. “Being very personalized Twitter gives me an opportunity to get up close and personal with my well wishers as well as people who want to know about my business venture”, he said.