dodo-modi-tharoorLearn from them, you stupid, extinct bird. And, don’t wait for an Airtel to start a campaign to save you.

This is going on for so long that it demands an explanation.

I’m talking about tweets being quoted in mainstream media – television in particular. Lalit Modi’s tweets are ‘used’ as ‘breaking news’ in every single channel. The more they seem defiant, the more they break our television screens.

Why…have TV news channels accepted the fact that their reporters cannot get access to Mr Modi? Or get juicy quotes from him to create breaking news? In other words, have they all accepted the fact that they are now nothing but second hand news sources? So, in a way, they are really not breaking anything, but merely amplifying a piece of opinion that already exists out there.

The reason for this post is the fact that at least 2 clients have already asked me, ‘See Karthik…Tharoor and Modi are examples of how things can go wrong in social media. One day, the people on social media treat you like a king, the next day, they dump you so deep that you don’t remember where you fell’.

Of course, my retort is something I’ve shared on Twitter already, but to sum it up, it is this: Do not blame the medium for human stupidity.

A few weeks back I had sought answer to the question, ‘Is social media making brands/companies good?’ I understand ‘good’ is a sweepingly simple word, but the backlash and conversation on social media is what brands are starting to be worried about – rightfully so. And, to avoid that, they are taking proactive action. Yes, Indian internet user numbers are a joke compared to the entire population, but when it is increasing in other advanced markets, isn’t this the right time to jump in and establish a presence? And not wait for the things to happen and find it is too late?

So, the point – social media mirrors what happens in real life. It simply happens to be the largest and the most sophisticated platform in the evolution of mankind that allows for a democratic voicing of opinions. And it all stays there, forever…if Google and Library of Congress have their way.

What Modi and Tharoor did was simply make intelligent use of one such platform – Twitter. They had the forethought to see that this could do away with a lot of PR paraphernalia…that they do not have to wait for someone with a journalistic authority to amplify their opinions on IPL, sweat equity, Burkino Faso and other real and non-existent African nations. They can do it themselves. Anytime they want. And use that disclosure to their advantage. Most of the times.

What ended up happening is that they fell out, in real life. And merely used Twitter to throw muck, on each other. When dirty linen of the high and mighty is being washed in public, can the media be far behind? Of course not – they will follow the dirt trail. And that is what is happening here.

Point again – when you see yourself having 30 odd followers and tweet about how you ‘reached your office’, have you ever thought about who is reading it? For what purpose? Or, to put it more bluntly, does anyone care? No, I’m not asking you to prepare every tweet like it’s an epic, but consider how well Tharoor and Modi ‘used’ the medium – there’s a lesson there. A lesson on clever content and brilliant timing being used for personal PR. They are on Twitter for a reason and it is helping them continue the conversation and be in the limelight long after mainstream media has painted them as evil.

Tharoor has a ‘save Tharoor’ fan club, while sections of media are doing random surveys with 7 and a half youngsters in one city to conclude that youngsters seem to be in favor of what Modi has achieved.

You see, in olden days, we did not have our own publicity vehicle. Now, we do. And, it is not just Twitter.

We all need publicity. To feel good. To get jobs. To shift jobs. For inspiration. To connect with other like minded people. Brands need publicity to sell products and services.

So, while tweeting inanities is perfectly fine, do not be foolish enough to believe when Twitter says, ‘discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world’. That’s on paper. In reality, it is how you use it. To your benefit.

It is surely a manipulative exercise, but the magic is in making the connect – between what you say and who reads it.

We’re just being our own advertising and PR agents.

For brands, this is an opportunity. If they want to continue looking at how the medium has wronged two powerful people, so be it. Be a sitting duck…go on.

You rivals have already started talking to real customers using the same medium. It is not the medium that you should be focusing on – it is what happens through the medium that matters! And that…is in your control!

What better example than Mr. Tharoor and Mr. Modi…to demonstrate the judicious mix of content and medium for publicity? This is simply another way of looking at it.

In short:

  1. You are in charge of your own life and publicity, and now have the tools to do it effectively too.
  2. You…could be, you – the individual, or you – the brand.
  3. What are you waiting for?