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Sunday October 13, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday October 13, 2013 MYT 8:19:00 AM
by sharmila nair
Time for a selfie: Lisa Surihani (seen here with husband Yusry Abdul Halim) is Malaysia’s Internet queen with 1.6 million Twitter followers.
Malaysian celebrities are diligent when it comes to using social media to make their presence felt.
IF you get over 20,000 likes for a selfie (self-taken photograph) on Instagram, there’s a reason to jump for joy. Heck, some of us celebrate when the number hits only 20.
But when Lisa Surihani’s husband, director Yusry Abdul Halim, pointed out that her recent picture on the social media site had garnered 20,000 likes, the actress coolly responded with an “Oh, really?”
Seated in a coffee house at a newly established hotel in Putrajaya, Lisa stole a glance at Yusry’s mobile phone to see which of the over 1,700 of her pictures on Instagram he was referring to.
“Oh, that one,” she said casually, looking at the four-picture collage of herself looking fresh and beautifully made up.
Now, before you paint 27-year-old Lisa as a conceited artiste, stop.
With over 2.6 million “Likes” on her official Facebook page, more than 1.6 million followers on Twitter and over 400,000 followers on Instagram, Lisa is the reigning queen of social media in the country – thus hitting 20,000 likes on a post doesn’t surprise her anymore.
With the increasing popularity of social media, it is no surprise that more Malaysian artistes are jumping on the bandwagon. Besides using it to post mundane subjects – like every other normal netizen with a social media account does – these celebs also use it to connect with their fans and keep them abreast of their current projects.
“The fans don’t get to meet us every day, so this is a way for us to interact with them and share our activities – personally or professionally,” said Pisau Cukur actress Fazura Sharifuddin.
The 30-year-old star said she views Instagram, where she has over 340,000 followers, as an online album to share photos on the things she likes, the people she loves and maybe an inspirational quote or two weekly.
For rockstar Amy Search, however, there is an underlying, but very important, reason as to why he consistently updates his social media accounts.
“I use it to let my fans know that I’m still alive,” he said jokingly.
Seated comfortably in his home in Kota Damansara, Selangor, Amy fiddled with his phone intermittently during the interview and looked up apologetically several times.
“Sorry, even my children sometimes complain that I’m on the phone too much,” said the 55-year-old rocker with a smile.
The former Search frontman was introduced to social media by a friend and he has since been hooked on Twitter and Instagram.
Not a big fan of selfies (“I don’t know what it is that people find fascinating about taking their own photos”), Amy instead prefers to publish photographs of his family’s escapades, which he said is a big hit among his fans.
“They like to see what I’m up to, how my children are growing up and what I’m working on.”
Besides connecting celebrities with their legion of fans, thus helping them build a stronger fan base, social media has proven to be also beneficial, monetary wise.
“It is a source of income for me,” said popular host Datuk Aznil Hj Nawawi.
The 50-year-old TV personality revealed that he has leveraged on his popularity on social media sites to garner extra income.
“I have 1.3 million followers on Facebook and have had companies approach me to promote their new products. I was paid handsomely for that, so the number of followers does matter.”
He has also been actively promoting several campaigns on his Twitter account, saying that when organisations approach him, they are assured that at least 900,000 of his followers will read his tweet about the project or product.
“I also have a cake business, thanks to Instagram,” said Aznil. What started as a simple post about his first endeavour in baking turned out to be a profitable business when his fans started placing orders.
“I did it during Hari Raya but am taking a short break now as I am busy with other activities,” he said.
Also benefiting from social media is Lisa, who said that some organisations include social media activity in their contracts when trying to get her to promote their products or services.
“Before, I was only present in TV commercials, print ads or billboards but now, I’m promoting businesses on social media as well,” she said.
While some popular figures are comfortable with turning social media into a money-making portal, artistes like Amy are content with helping up-and-coming businesses.
“Sometimes, I have fans approach me with their products, such as T-shirts bearing my image, and ask me to wear it. I take a photo of them with the product and put it up on my Instagram account to help promote their small businesses.
“I don’t ask for anything in return. It’s not as if they are making bucketloads of money with that product, and they are doing it out of love for me, so it’s not right for me to expect any token from them,” he said.
However, Amy is seriously thinking about starting a business to sell “Amy Search” merchandise as there is a demand for such items from fans.
Putting it out there
Although posting photos online is a norm for most celebrities, Fazura feels that some people should tone their activities down.
“Instagram is getting a little bit tacky. People are using it to show off their wealth and that’s just not right.”
She also feels celebrities should toe the line, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. “(Celebrities) are already sharing so much, so I think some things should remain personal (and not be flaunted online),” she said.
Fellow artiste Lisa, however, feels differently and has no qualms about posting pictures of her relationship with her husband.
“In fact, that’s the kind of photos that the fans like. The photos with my husband are the ones that get the most likes,” said Lisa. Her husband, Yusry, who was also present at the interview, quipped that such photos don’t happen often; unlike his wife, Yusry doesn’t like to be in front of the camera.
For Aznil, he gives fans a glimpse into his personal life once in a while as an added bonus.
“I don’t fancy doing it but I do take photos of the interior of my house and my family and put them online for the fans to see. I know that the fans want to get closer to me and this is one way to make them feel appreciated. They get the photos first from me and not from some magazine.”
Room for negativity
Of course, with the kind of exposure that social media affords, there are bound to be negative reactions.
Even after 32 years in the music industry, Amy, who has had his fair share of haters, admitted that the nasty remarks on his timeline sting.
“I don’t understand why they (the haters) would want to come to my ‘garden’ and destroy it. It’s my place, if you don’t like me, don’t visit,” he said.
Lisa, who doesn’t tolerate negativity online nor let them affect her, said that social media has given the false impression to people that they have the power and prerogative to say anything they want without being caught.
“I used to question why they (the haters) would say hurtful things but I’ve stopped paying attention to all that now,” said the petite actress who claimed she has been attacked online about her physical attributes.
While it may be easier to pretend that these negative comments don’t exist, it still hurts. Aznil would usually respond to the messages before blocking the users.
“There is always the option to unfollow. If they don’t like what I do or say on my personal account, they don’t have to follow me. It’s that simple.”
Although it may seem that the celebrities are leaving themselves open to attacks from critics who are pretty vicious at times, these celebs are quick to remember the main reason they got into social media in the first place.
“I started it for my fans and I will always keep that in mind. For every hater out there, there are more people who genuinely like me and want to see me succeed.
“I cannot and won’t let the negativity of some people affect how I interact with my true fans,” said Amy.
Social media butterflies
Tags / Keywords:
Entertainment, People, Malaysian celebrities, social media, Twitter, Instagram, Amy Search, Lisa Surihani, Fazura Sharifuddin, Aznil Nawawi
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