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On the social highway

Rachna Bisht-Rawat
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trend You can add Aishwarya Rai as a Facebook friend; tick off the Big B on Twitter; or even tell Sachin Tendulkar you don’t like his new hair colour.

AT A KEY’S DISTANCE:Social media has made it easy for a fan to feel connected with a favourite idolPhoto: AFP
AT A KEY’S DISTANCE:Social media has made it easy for a fan to feel connected with a favourite idolPhoto: AFP

Do you wonder if Amitabh Bachchan gets up every morning and reaches for his cell phone first thing to check his Facebook and Twitter accounts? We shouldn’t be too surprised if he does. The social web has provided a glitzy red carpet to celebrities where they can pose for fans and give them a peep into their famous lives .

Vigilant twitterati

Though if Bachchan did check his Twitter account earlier this month, it might have caused some more greying because tweeting about Mary Kom’s Olympic achievement, he got his geography wrong. For which he received more than a few raps on the knuckles from vigilant twitterati. “Mary Kom!! wins boxing bout, insured (sic) a Bronze! What a story! A Mother of two from Assam creates moment of pride for India!!” read his message. Vinay Bavdekar was quick to reply “She’s from Manipur, sir!!” Rajkumar Sen was antsy enough to tell the star: “You need to increase your knowledge about NE India.” Ratty Miller made a correction to the Big B’s English as well: “ensured, not insured.” The actor later apologised for his gaffe.

Says media watcher and teacher John Thomas, “The celeb-fan relationship has obviously changed from the days when a fan wrote postcards from Jhumri Talaiya requesting a song on Vividh Bharati.”

In these golden days of social (media) equality, a fan can tick off Amitabh Bachchan, follow Sachin Tendulkar on Twitter and be Aishwarya Rai’s Facebook friend. Celebs need fans, writers need readers, singers need listeners and fans need a thrill. The social media are obligingly providing each with what they need the most.

Social media for promotion

“We use the social media all the time to promote new writers, upcoming books, organise chats, quizzes to increase curiosity about books and authors,” admits Renu Agal, commissioning editor at Penguin Books India. “Penguin frequently does online chats with writers which help connect writers to their readers and it definitely works as a tool to improve sales. Writers who are active on social media also tweet or update their Facebook pages with their book covers and urge their friends to buy and read their works.”

A recent survey by Pinstorm India declared Priyanka Chopra as the topmost influential Indian in social media with Shashi Tharoor coming in second and Bachchan following at third place. Priyanka has 22,28,363 followers on Twitter which is more than even Sachin Tendulkar.

Technology experts feel celebrities cannot afford to remain isolated from networking sites which offer them a forum to publicise their work and connect with fans. “The accounts are set up for celebrities by their image managers,” Thomas comments. “They may not have time, for one thing, and they may not even know how to type. It's evident by watching the kind of posts they put up and also by studying whom they choose to follow.”

If you take a look at Aishwarya Rai’s Facebook page (5,40,156 likes; with 1,22,351 talking about it) or even that of relatively less popular celebs like Tina Ambani or Suchitra Krishnamurthy, it is obvious they are just a means of serving a business need .

Krishnamurthy is using hers to promote a new book and a new initiative called The Candlelight Company. Aishwarya has a picture of herself in a lacy outfit and has even reprimanded fans for posting “cheap comments” in one place.

Enough fodder for fans to keep flocking.

“It’s a great high to be part of the lives of these celebs. It seems you are part of this glittering world which is so far removed from your humdrum existence,” laughs Agal. Celebs and fans seem to be developing a symbiotic social media relationship where the fan gets a kick that he/she is getting to know a celeb better while the celeb translates this into more reach (read moreprfits).

Rachna Bisht-Rawat

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