Sunday, May 22, 2016

Wanna #OpenUpTheIndustry Part 3: Social Media Stars Era

These days anyone can be on tv and seemingly become a celebrity by just having that platform but very few can be stars. Social media has become the proverbial maker of kings of queens. Hear the lament of thespians and musos bemoaning the fact that people get hired because of the followers and not talent. Well, boo hoo! Welcome to 2016. 

In my article Wanna #OpenUpTheIndustry?  Part 2: Blame The Artist , I explained how building a good brand helps one to attract more work. I also explored the reasons why some entertainers are failing to equip themselves with the tools to make them attractive to potential employers and brands. In this piece let’s look at the elements that seem mundane but go a long way in contributing to one’s star power;

Hollywood has had its share of outside influence elevating people to stardom irrespective of their talent. Marilyn Monroe was a sexpot who became a screen legend simply because of her looks. 

This is a business and often careers are catapulted by serving the business interest of the industry rather than just the talent. Right now, trending on Twitter is the rage thus people with the biggest followers get the most attention. Do you think My Perfect Wedding is the most watched show in South Africa? People tweet about it and that is what makes it relevant regardless of how many people watch it. 

This what I mean; Current “It Girls” might have throngs of people following them on social media but very few people actually spend their money simply based on these girls’ names. For some of them, people do not even watch shows they host in big numbers. Yet, these individuals still command a huge amount of star power and respect. 

Give your fans attention. Bonang constantly retweets and engages with people who follow her on Twitter. That simple gesture has endeared her to her legion of fans who will protect her no matter what. To impress her, they will go out of their way to shower her with praise and engage with any content she shares on that platform. Brands see that and they reward her with more work. 

 A little mystery goes a long way. Do not over-share. Stars are the equivalent of mythological beings in pop culture; the potency of a star’s power has much to do with the assumption of what they have rather than the reality of it. Show us you don’t really have what we think you have then you shrink in stature. You just become one of us. 

Contrary to what people think; we don’t want our stars to be just like us. This is not to say a celebrity has to be aloof and act all uppity or above us. It simply means, a star should always have that thing about them that we can be in awe of. It needn’t even be material possession. Just perceiving their lives to be more entertaining than ours is enough to elevate them to that mythical status.

Don’t be coy about your ambitions. In a way it takes away the inspirational aspect out of your brand. When Minnie Dlamini constantly reminds you of her her KZN roots and her struggles to get into the industry; it is meant to conjure feelings of inspirational awe and thus encourage you to love her more. It is an innocent statement and it is her truth but it is also a calculated truth. If you thought things came easy to her, would you be interested in her rise?

It is not a lie just half-truth. Boity posting pictures of herself getting cosy with a guy and then later proclaiming her singlehood, is not a lie but yet another calculated PR move to keep you interested. Yes, maybe she is single and maybe she is not — but you care to know and that’s all that matters in making her BOITY the brand. 

Ok maybe it’s a lie but it got you talking. I once asked a guy why he continues to support a pastor who flaunts his wealth while his congregation is poor. He said to me that he would not want to look up to someone who is struggling like he is. Seeing his pastor’s wealth motivates him to believe in God’s blessings. 

Bonang saying she is the global ambassador for Revlon, intentional or not, was a lie. But it is a lie that served a specific purpose. When you build a career on being a winner, your fans expect you to be a winner. Her saying that she has achieved that milestone served her brand well because it kept her legions of fans believing in her super power to attain what many in this country can’t. 

The result of that lie was actually good for her because she got the media coverage for it. Google her name and the articles praising her global achievement pop up without correction thus elevating her status to those oblivious about the facts. On the PR front, it is a win for her. Hell some of her fans even defended that lie. 

Your hate, elevates.  The master of hate PR rapper AKA has been playing the public like a fiddle for some time now and his streak has no end in sight. The consummate agitator always knows which buttons to push to get social media rattled. The pay off of course is that he gets free publicity out of it. We don’t have paparazzi in Mzansi so the next best thing is to get your name trending even when you have nothing to promote but just yourself. 

Journalists are not going to write about what he is wearing or which club he was seen partying at, like their American counterparts do with their celebs, but they will definitely write about what he tweeted that got people fuming. 

Say what you will about these nouveua industrie social media stars but they found a new lucrative niche in the market and they are making it work for them. You may not agree with it but this is the times we live in. Old methods have become impractical and the new type of star has evolved with the time. 

Instead of complaining about how social media celebrities have usurped the stage, rather let’s integrate this new medium into how we teach young entertainers about building their careers. Studying drama will give you the respect for the craft and hone your skills but I have yet to hear of an audition where people were asked for their degrees. Drama faculties in high learning institutions, film schools, etc have to evolve too . Social media is our present and the future — those who embrace will enhance their career prospects  

This is the era of the social media stars. 

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