The Telugu film industry steps up its presence on social networking sites, with help from marketing professionals, finds Sangeetha Devi Dundoo

Production houses have taken assured steps towards promoting their films on social networking platforms. Dedicated pages on Facebook, interactive mobile applications and creating a buzz on Twitter are all part of the game. In the last few months, every hash-tag such as #HappyBirthdayAnushka or #1NenokkadineApp that trended on Twitter has been the brain child of marketing teams. Meet a few such teams.

Let it trend

The average age group of the First Show team is 23. This group understands social media and looks at ways to catch the attention of a population that spends more time online than offline. The team is open to working with production houses at different levels — creative poster designs to script assistance, developing promotional applications to making a film trend on twitter.

For Sharath Chandra, co-founder of First Show, cinema is a product. “I am a marketing professional first and then a film buff,” he says. He sensed a huge gap in digital marketing for Telugu films. Their team includes strategists, designers, content developers, photographers and a technical team to develop applications. They developed a mobile application for Mahesh Babu’s 1-Nenokkadine and got it to trend on twitter, helped a small film like Paathshaala get more than 10,000 applications for a casting call on Facebook, developed an interactive application for Kiss , convinced the makers of Ko Antey Koti to make their music available free online, and launched the poster of Rudrama Devi to coincide with Anushka Shetty’s birthday. “The industry is still not open to script assistance, but producers understand the need for digital marketing,” says Sharath.

Pay and watch

Like many of us, Mayurnath Puli and his wife were put off by ad breaks while watching a film on television. They wondered about an advertisement-free platform to watch movies and Zingreel was born. The idea was incubated at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. “We spoke to Kannada producers to see if they were willing to stream their movies online, enabling viewers to watch them for a fee. The industry wasn’t ready. We had better response from the Telugu industry,” says Mayurnath. So far, seven Telugu films have premiered on Zingreel.

Alias Janaki , for instance, premiered online on the same day as that of the theatrical release. Producers fix the fee for online viewing and an end user is charged when the film begins to stream. The Zingreel team feels online premieres can help films reach an audience that may not have access to theatrical releases. Mayur did a survey among his NRI friends and gauged their willingness to pay and watch a film first day, first show. Zingreel streams Telugu, Tamil and Hindi films. Once a producer consents to an online premiere, a ticket window is opened. The film is streamed if it attracts a sizeable number of users. “We also give producers the option of ‘geo blocking’ whereby they can showcase a film only in certain territories,” adds Balwant Singh, consultant, marketing and content.

A WAP portal

Watching movies online is feasible when you have high-speed internet connection. What if you don’t own a high-end phone or have a slow internet connection? Vega Entertainment’s WAP portal, launching next week, hopes to plug this gap. “The portal will function like a mini YouTube, allowing subscribers to watch movies, interviews and live coverage of audio launches. We will convert these files to suit low bandwidths,” says Chidambaram Natesan, vice president, Vega Entertainment. The portal will have a catalogue of over 2500 movies.

A hawk-eye on social media

Arka Mediaworks, which is producing S.S. Rajamouli’s Baahubali , has its own channel on YouTube and the team unveils posters and videos of the film’s making to coincide with birthdays of its lead stars. Smaller films like Bangaaru Kodi Petta have pages on Facebook, unveiling comic strips and nuggets from the film.

Film publicists who explored traditional media have also turned a hawk eye on online platforms. Sreenivas, known as SKN on social media, and his team at Shreyas Media aggressively promote films they are associated with — Attarintiki Daaredi, Prema Katha Chitram, Mirchi, Ramayya Vastavayya and Pizza 2: Villa . SKN feels online promotions help tap techies who spend more time in front of their computer monitors than television screens. “For a small film like Villa that targets a niche audience, we did more promotions online than on TV. The cost for online promotions is lower and helps producers,” he shares.

What they do:

lDesign Facebook pages and Twitter handles.

lDevelop interactive mobile and social networking applications to launch trailers and teasers.

lLaunch posters, song promos, teasers and theatrical trailers on special occasions and create a buzz.

lOnline streaming of content.

lMore online promotions for smaller films that target a niche audience.