Today most of the talking happens on social media. India’s biggest chunk of population i.e. the young India spends a considerable amount of time on Twitter, Facebook and on mobile messaging apps. Well, the reach might be questioned by traditional media players but today from the PM to the CM, from an actor to a cricketer, everybody has a social media presence and is also using it effectively.
With this new wave, brands realized that along with other mediums like radio, TV, print, etc. the consumer also happens to be on social media. The next thing after getting sizable likes and followers was to engage with the fans, hence giving rise to a mad rush of giveaways like iPads, iPhones and more.
Along with running contests, marketing managers also realized that users on Facebook or Twitter are more drawn towards celebrities. So, in came celebrity endorsements on social media.
Celebrity endorsement on social media
The trick – that till date was working on TV – was adopted for social media too. Selling products was happening courtesy celebrities on social media. A little search in Indian celebrity Twitter accounts and you would find tweets that smell of endorsements. Like the below tweet from Chetan Bhagat’s timeline. This was the time when he was promoting his association with Shaadi.com to his more than a million followers on Twitter.
— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) May 31, 2013
In fact today celebrities are having different endorsement contracts for social media. According to a recent article published at ET, costs go up to 25% of traditional endorsement contract with a celebrity.
Bunty Sajdeh, CEO of Cornerstone Sport & Entertainment shared with ET that,
“Twitter is a very big aspect of a celeb’s reach. Sponsored tweets are certainly gaining traction in India.”
His firm manages endorsements for celebrities and sportsmen like Sonakshi Sinha, Virat Kohli, Prabhu Deva and Sania Mirza.
In fact, cricketer Yuvraj Singh, who is quite popular on Twitter, had tweeted about Birla Sunlife Insurance, a brand that he has been endorsing for a while. Though the star didn’t charge any money, the tweet went out at a time when he was recovering from cancer.
Endorsements by social media influencers
Apart from brands having endorsements with offline celebrities, they have started approaching social media influencers, especially on the eve of Facebook or Twitter contests. These influencers are none other than those who have more than some thousand followers and their job is to tweet about a certain contest or tell the followers about a new product launch.
In 2011, ET had published a story that highlighted on how social media stars and professional tweeters like Hrish Thota are making good money by promoting products or events of brands on Twitter. Today there are many clones of Hrish who are doing the same job.
So what is wrong in the social media endorsement business?
The business is fine but how it is being done on social media needs to be questioned. Celebrities are not mentioning whether a particular tweet is a sponsored one.
Social media is about being yourself and true to your followers. So why are the Indian celebrities and the new social media influencers not stating clearly when they are endorsing products on social media. Transparency is required since today’s user is smart. Even if celebrities don’t put the word sponsored or #ad on Twitter, one gets it. It would be great to let followers know the truth before they find the bluff. I hope no one would love to trend on Twitter for the wrong reasons.
In the month of March, 2013, The Federal Trade Commission in the US updated its endorsement guidelines, officially called Dot Com Disclosures and had specific updates on brand endorsements by celebrities on social media. The update stated that:
Disclosures “must be clear and conspicuous on all devices and platforms that consumers may use to view the ad.” And if an advertisement without a disclosure would be deceptive or unfair, or would otherwise violate a Commission rule, and the disclosure cannot be made clearly and conspicuously on a device or platform, then that device or platform should not be used.
The FTC also suggested that endorsing tweets should be flagged by including “Ad:” at the beginning or with the word sponsored.
It is going to take some time before our country has such rules. But till then may I request all celebrities, social media stars, gurus, speakers, etc. to please begin this noble practice by stating it whenever you tweet for a brand.
Image courtesy: Businessesgrow.com