#ExpertSpeak: Rise of celebrity engagement platforms – How, What & Why?

Celebrity engagement platforms

The new trend in town, celebrity engagement platforms, are steadily taking over the fan universe in the social domain. We speak to the helmers to deep dive into the latest trends that are emerging in the way fans engage with celebrities and the role of social media in it.

Tring, Celebfie, Unlu, Uplive, Truefan, and many more such celebrity engagement platforms aim to fill the void that exists between followers & celebrities through a social media element. The trend first began in the USA and has been gaining prominence in India in the last couple of years. In 2019, ALTBalaji acquired a 17.5% stake in celebrity engagement platform, Tring. When TikTok was first banned, in a bid to dominate the space, homegrown short-video app Chingari partnered with Celebyte to add a celebrity engagement element.

From personalized messages to customized birthday wishes to meetups – direct celebrity-fan engagement prospect has expanded vastly.  Social Samosa speaks at length with the torchbearers as they derive ways to monetize the apps while bridging the gap.

Celebrity Engagement Platforms – The Need

There are over a billion people in India who have always celebrated or been in awe of their celebrity idols. Social media did fulfill a part of that wonderment where the fans came closer to their favorite celebrity. However, the social media population usually restricts quality fan-celebrity engagement.

According to Akshay Saini, CEO and Co-Founder, Tring, the celebrity engagement platform is a creator-first economy. “With the growing number of celebrities from across different fields, there is an increasing gap in earning potential, depending on various factors. Platforms like Tring helps bridge that gap and give celebrities the chance to maximize their fame with fans and various brands (local, regional, and national). The platform becomes an ever-growing revenue source for them.”

While Uplive was created to allow video social hosts to broadcast to the world, it also allows users to give virtually, have an interactive gaming center, and real-time translation. “This offering creates potential to continually expand and develop in new markets. For example, live music has grown to become the #1 content vertical on Uplive,” informs Ahmad Mukhtiyar, Marketing Manager, Uplive India.

Meanwhile, a financially difficult year has slashed ad budgets and lowered cost metrics on dynamically priced forums such as search engines and social media. This is where Celebfie stepped in. Raminder Singh, CEO- Celebfie quips that other celebrity-centric booking platforms in the digital space are transactional, whereas at Celebfie, the experience for the fans for a long-term connection with the celebrity.

While the audiences are looking for interactive content, the communication between celebs and their fans is completely one way. Unlu aims to fill this gap by making celebrities more accessible to their fans through pre-recorded video messages, video calls, and unluclasses. Vipul Agrawal, Co-Founder, Unlu predicts the industry growing to a $10 Billion + opportunity in India within the next 3-5 years.

Platform Constituents

Celebyte plays hosts to over 2500 celebrities that include Bollywood actors, reality show fame stars, TV actors, Influencers, Sports and Fitness personalities, and more. A few Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada Stars are also a part of this collaboration.

Further highlighting the content filtration process, Husain Habib, Celebrity Management Expert shares that there are price ranges and categories for each video byte from carefully categorized and scrutinized celebs.

On the other hand, Unlu’s process takes into account the face value of the celebrity. Given that, it focuses on getting a wide range of celebrities and influencers on board to cater to all segments.

While celebrities have the freedom to create and upload content that is true to them and resonates with their audience, there are a few attributes that need to be checked off. Singh says, “The first is that the content needs to be exclusively created for Celebfie. Secondly, the content must be bite-sized and engaging.”

The criteria to onboard a celebrity on Tring is based on popularity (local/regional/national/international), genre, social power/social following, etc. The platform also sees a lot of celebrities registering to get on board through the Tring app.

Making Moolah

It’s a trend that began in the US four years ago, as platforms began to offer personalized greetings, or shoutouts, from celebrities, via call or video, for a price. Go to the booking page of a celebrity and place your request. Once accepted the details were shared.

Celebyte offers 360-degree turnkey solutions from app designing, content production, and getting the maximum out of content.

Habib notes, “It would work best though on reference-based on user interaction. There is a refund procedure for fans in case there is a rejection from the celeb they have chosen.”

Uplive’s business model is based on retaining and monetizing. The app retains engaged users through live social features and content (e.g., group streaming, curated broadcasters, UGC broadcasters, Vertical content such as games). Uplive monetizes through a mix of services, including gifting, subscriptions, and games.

Celebfie is a subscription-based platform that allows celebrities to monetize their app channels. A percentage of these subscriptions is shared with the platform along with the sales from other celebrity offerings like social media collaborations, brand video bites, appearances, etc.

“Big social media giants keep the major chunk of the revenue and a very minuscule portion of it is passed on to the content creator so we are going against this practice and normalizing the trend of aptly compensating the content creator for their time and creativity,” briefs Singh.

He thinks the potential market for platforms like Celebfie is huge because it falls under multiple buckets – mobile content, short format content, mobile OTT, 2-way social communication with a community feel.

Unlu is a transactional platform where a user can choose a variety of offerings for a fee. In every transaction, a set percentage goes to the concerned celebrity and the rest remain with the app.

Saini informs that a plethora of corporates, MSME’s and start-ups have leveraged the celebrity engagement services for driving product efficacy, and brand saliency.

Also Read: #ExpertSpeak Coding Advertising Ecosystem: How can responsible marketing save the day?

Growth Trajectory

Agrawal shares that Unlu has more than a million users visiting the app only on a monthly basis and is also an exclusive partner with BookMyShow. Meanwhile, Celebyte is still gaining followers on its social media, and more than 1k+ videos are posted on the platform already.

“Content creation and timely posts are the keys to gain the extra edge. Wishing on occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc. shows compassion and bonding between the customer and the celeb, and his or her attachment and satisfactory experience through the app,” elucidates Habib.

Celebfie claims to be seeing celebrity channel subscription numbers go from 0 to 50 within a week, and for a few of them who’s more active on the app, they’ve crossed the 1000 subscriber mark.

Singh believes that there are three factors that are leading to growth – The app content being curated and created by the celebrities themselves; the content being theme-based where fans get to see the celebrities candidly and last, that the content is exclusively for the celebrity micro-channels and cannot be found anywhere else.

While live music is Uplive’s #1 content vertical, Mukhtiyar observes that the app also attracts a wide range of subscribers and fan bases within its live video/audio and gaming communities.

Also, Saini points out that the rising income levels juxtaposed with the growing cultural relevance of gifting have helped contribute to the growth of such platforms.

The Marketing Element

“We latch on to a lot of trends in the market, we keep in mind that nothing we do looks forceful and all content that goes out is relevant to our user and also encourages learning and doing more,” Agarwal shares when quizzed about the app leveraging the mass universe of social media to market its offerings.

In a bid to gain visibility, Celebyte uses festivities, interaction opportunity highlights, publicizes its offers and discounts, and responds to all queries it receives through social media leads.

Celebfie’s social media strategy is geared towards increasing brand awareness, generating quality leads, focusing on app downloads, and boosting overall engagement. Following the buzz, it also keeps up with the current trends and accordingly modifies the content

Meanwhile, Uplive encourages its pool of creators to share their streams and contents across various social platforms as they act as great entry points for learning about the platform.

Given the nature of its business, and being a tech platform operating in the gifting, media, and entertainment space – Tring’s content hooks tend to be more strategic and contextual.

Saini concludes, “Pop-culture and emerging trends also dictate our communication strategy on these platforms but coupled with planned execution of brand initiatives and messaging for initiatives that are critical for a brand to stand out – like our social impact campaign, the IconsForChange.”


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