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Twitter Celebs turn to UTV to earn while they tweet
SATARUPA PAUL  18th Dec 2011

@ShashiTharoor: Sent a bunch of flowers from 123flowerz #ad to Sunanda. She's very pleased!

Well-known politician and author Shashi Tharoor may not have tweeted the above. Yet. But soon the timelines of the more than one million people who follow him on microblogging social network Twitter could feature such tweets from him regularly. And not just flowers, Tharoor may tweet about the pizza he ate, the car he test-drove or the reality TV series he and his wife watched while cuddling on that new sofa he bought recently. The story doesn't end here. While he is busy endorsing brands and products on Twitter, his bank balance increases by more than $1,000 for each of his tweets that advertises something.

Made possible by a Twitter advertising platform called Sponsored Tweets, celebrities like Tharoor are joining Kim Kardashian, Daddy Yankee and other such international names, in promoting brands and products through their tweets. Sponsored Tweets, which has been functioning abroad since 2009, was developed by IZEA, a world leader in social media sponsorship, based on a simple idea of connecting sponsors with Twitter users. Brought to India in September this year by UTV, Sponsored Tweets India already boasts of a list with more than 1,200 Tweeters, who have signed up for its services. There are many celebrities like Tharoor, Ram Gopal Verma, Sameera Reddy and VJ Bani among others, while the rest constitute regular Tweeters like you and me. UTV has exclusive rights over the platform in India and brings to it an assortment of celebrities from its kitty. "UTV has a dedicated digital celebrity division that monetises the presence of celebrities via web and mobile. We run some of the most successful celebrity-content-powered products consisting of voice blogs, voice chats and video blogs, etc. Getting into monetising their social media presence was the next logical step," says Sameer Pitalwalla, Senior Vice President, UTV Interactive.

An algorithm suggests the price your tweets can fetch based on the number of followers you have and how active your followers are. Tharoor, with over a million followers, tops the list and is priced at ,690 per tweet. Non-celebs fetch anything between and 0 or more per tweet.

So how do you go about deriving profits from the 140 characters you type on Twitter? Simple steps really: once you sign up on Sponsored Tweets, an algorithm suggests the price your tweets can fetch based on the number of followers you have and how active your followers are. Tharoor, with over a million followers, tops the list and is priced at $1,690 per tweet. Non-celebs fetch anything between $2 and $200 or more per tweet. Advertisers, on the other hand, can list their preferences based on how much they are ready to shell out per tweet, the minimum number of followers a Tweeter must have and so on. Once Sponsored Tweets matches the two, tweeters are given a set of instructions on what to include in their tweets and when to release it. Tweeters have the freedom to write in their own words but every tweet is checked and approved by the advertiser before it's published. "We've already got over 50 brands and advertisers out of India and the number is growing. A large number of small and medium enterprises as well as big brands have tried the platform and are returning with campaigns," Pitalwalla says.

While some followers may cringe and even unfollow these celebrities after such open endorsement, many others would delightfully retweet the promotions their idols have so publicly advertised. Social media consultant, Sanjukta Basu agrees and adds, "A lot of followers may be disappointed, but for someone who has say, 50,000 followers, a mere 500 unfollowing them will not make a big difference to their Twitter profiles." She thinks that this phenomenon is not very different from advertisements on other media. "We have celebs endorsing products on all types of media, from TV commercials to print ads. Then why not on Twitter?" She says, "While such Twitter endorsements may garner a large number of followers, whether or not it ultimately translates into business for these brands, remains to be seen." Till then, let's retweet those sponsored tweets and hope that we can earn some dollars too!

 
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