MUMBAI (Reuters) - The next time you read a tweet from your favourite celebrity, it could mean more than just 140 characters -- it could be an ad in disguise.
Sponsored tweets have come to India and some Bollywood celebrities are being paid more than $3,000 per tweet by advertisers to mention their brands on Twitter.
UTV Interactive, the digital arm of UTV, has signed up with IZEA, a U.S.-based company specialising in social media sponsorships to bring sponsored tweets to India.
Several Bollywood celebrities, including director Anurag Kashyap, and tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi have been signed up by UTV and the company hopes to sign up more people as they go along.
Lara Dutta, with more than 450,000 followers on Twitter, gets $3,250 per sponsored tweet while Kashyap, with around 23,000 followers, commands a price tag of $31.
“We see a lot of potential in this market for something like sponsored tweets,” Sameer Pitalwalla of UTV Interactive told Reuters.
“It doesn’t have to be just a celebrity. Anyone with more than 50 followers on Twitter can be eligible for this.”
Those who sign up for sponsored tweets will talk about a brand in their tweets, but will have to make it clear that it is sponsored.
“We don’t want to mislead the audience,” said Ted Murphy, CEO of IZEA.
“We have clear rules that state that the tweeter will formulate his or her own tweet and the advertiser cannot control the content of the tweet.”
Murphy said the company saw great potential for Indian celebrities to be accessible to international advertisers through this deal.
American celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian and Mike Tyson could get paid thousands of dollars for a sponsored tweet, depending on the advertiser and the product.
Pitalwalla said initial talks with advertisers had been positive and brands who wanted to reach a particular target audience would find sponsored tweets effective.
More than 30 million Indians are members of social media sites and that number is expected to grow. A May 2011 study by Nielsen showed that a fourth of Indians online were able to recall brands using social media.