From Renting Condos to Building Mansions: escapex Is Creating New Online Homes for Celebrities | Tech News
Osric Chau has never liked the idea of social media. But the director, producer and Supernatural star understands it as part of his role as a celebrity. There are a number of reasons for his hesitation: the feeling of exposure, his naturally introverted nature, and the fact that his mom is always first to comment on his posts. He’d been needing a better solution. escapex’s creator and Chief Business Officer Shamik Talukder also needed a better solution, but for a different reason: he was an AC/DC fan who couldn’t, for the life of him, get them to respond to a comment he left them on Facebook.
Talukder recognizes that the two challenges are different facets of the same problem: social media doesn’t work for celebrities (a) the way it does for other people, or (b) in a way that many of them need it to work. “They’ll get restricted, because [social media] sites are not designed to show 100% of content. Over time, celebrities who have come to depend on this reach for exposure have seen it decline, and will see it continue to decline- which means fans can’t see everything they post.
And what they do post, they quickly lose control over. “Celebrities who make content, lose rights to [it] when they post,” Talukder reminded the crowd, “and that’s not fair.” This lack of control over the posts they create, combined with the cost being levied to supplement organic reach, will inevitably drive celebrities off these platforms and toward a new model. This eventual exodus is what Talukder and escapex are already counting on. In his words, “celebrities were not meant to live in rented condos, they’re supposed to live in private mansions.” escapex’s customized app solutions, which allow fans to download individual apps for their favorite celebrities and influencers, gives them ownership over their own content, while connecting them directly to the people who want to see it- or are willing to pay to access it.
“Having this app is like going to a Comic-Con just for me.”
Chau cited the app’s ability to connect him directly with fans who want to talk to him as one of its best assets. Noting that he’s seen messages on his social media pages that have clearly been blasted to fan pages all over the Internet, he prefers the intimacy and connection with people who he knows are there to talk to him. “I don’t have to worry about competing with literally everyone else at the convention,” he said, further likening the app and its Fan Feed feature to a focused environment that connects people over a common interest.
Talukder related an anecdote from early on in Chau’s app: a fan posted a photo from her final doctor’s appointment and announced to the feed that she was cancer-free after a course of treatment. Not only was Osric able to clearly find her comment and congratulate the young woman himself, thousands of other fans boosted her post (through the app’s currency; her total on the post equaled some 21,000 points). Both Talukder and Chau are convinced that such a comment on traditional social media would have gotten lost in an algorithmic shuffle.
“We’re free to do whatever we want.”
The above quote came not from Chau, but from fellow escapex user Tommy Chong. He, along with celebrities like Ashley Tisdale, Jeremy Renner, and comedian Chris D’Elia regularly use their apps to run contests, share exclusive content, and express appreciation that, as D’Elia mentioned in a post shared on his birthday, “he doesn’t do on the other apps.” Where algorithmic feeds and terms of service limit a number of actions that celebrities would want to take on their social media sites, the app allows them to do. This includes Ashley Tisdale’s inaugural sweepstakes, which flew 3 fans to LA to go makeup shopping with her, and a young man who spend $10,000 in the app to win a contest to fly to Miami to meet a Russian model whose app is hosted by escapex.
The personalized app model has taken considerable hold internationally, and escapex is the leading provider of such apps in Latin America, Asia and the Pacific Islands, India, Indonesia, and Brazil. Talukder is convinced that the wave will take over for American celebrities next, and Chau is inclined to agree. Having obtained his app just before algorithmic feeds took over, he acknowledges that he is on board before the masses move there- and he likes that. “This is the next thing, and that’s [something] I pride myself on.”
“Having this app feels like I’m given a voice that I don’t have on other platforms.”
Quite apart from relieving the pressure of a watchful mother, Chau seems to appreciate the freedom to engage in a safe and secure place through his app. A self-professed introvert, he recognizes that it allows a sense of control over interactions that other options weren’t providing. “When I first started acting, I thought this was the most selfish job I could do.” But after seeing fans forge friendships on the live feed of a charity gaming marathon he participated in, he recognized he could help bring people together- and acknowledges his focused escapex app Fan Feed has done that consistently since it was established.
Talukder is hugely appreciative of the enthusiasm that Chau has for the app, and recognizes the power that this model has to redefine the relationships that celebrities have not just with their fans, but with social media as a whole. “We’re changing the way influencers interact with their fans.” And brands are taking notice- Apple, Coke, and Pepsi can be counted among escapex’s early brand users- in this space, they can partner with participating celebrities to create branded content and engage the people most likely to appreciate the crossover.
Using Coke as an example, Talukder returned to his rent v. buy analogy: “if I wanted to paint the room red, here, I couldn’t do that because I don’t own this space. But in my house, I can.” Coke can paint the app red if they’d like. Celebrities can invite as many people as they want over, if they’d like. The standard of networks making billions of dollars from influencers and celebrities engaging their own fans, while the creators have to pay for unfettered access to those fans, is coming to a close. escapex is establishing a new neighborhood, and is ready for more people in power to move in.
Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.