When the entire Tata Sky Head Office in Mumbai hummed a Telugu film song at 3pm

That headline is an exaggeration/creative liberty… to make a point. Read on, for the point 🙂

Tata Sky’s official handle on Twitter makes for an interesting note.

At the surface, the handle and its activities seem normal enough.

Tons and tons of customer queries and issues dealt with. Responses are shared between team members, understandably, given the volume of complaints. The team members, many times, use their initials while responding. At times, they don’t. Standard procedure, and I’m sure based on some internal protocol, as is not normal for most customer support Twitter accounts.

But since they are the official handle of the brand too, there is a lot of brand-centric marketing that happens on the handle. Tata Sky, given who they are and the fact that they stand for content, even if they don’t produce their own content and only act as a conduit for other content creators on TV.

So, tweets around wishing celebrities for their birthday, topical days and Tata Sky’s message on that day, events they participate in, news pieces about actors (who may obviously be featured in a channel in Tata Sky) and so on.

As I said, standard operating procedure.

But, things get interesting when the brand handle, made up of a team of people, starts expressing sentiments! Like ‘love’, ‘like’, ‘can’t get enough of’, ‘Can’t wait’, ‘Humming this tune’ and so on.

And these human emotion tweets are not signed with initials, ironically, when they are needed the most!

When I came across one such tweet (they are always replies), I actually thought someone in the team that manages Tata Sky’s corporate handle on Twitter wrote that by mistake, assuming that they are in their personal Twitter login. This happens fairly often, and some people have got into big trouble over this across the world. But this is not that at all. There are a LOT of such replies.

When a Tata Sky Twitter handle, comprising of a team of people and is so obviously not an individual (both explicitly established due to the multiple signatures and the fact that there’s no mention of one person’s name in the bio as the official ‘handler’, usually the norm in global Twitter handles belonging to technology companies) expresses sentiments like ‘Humming this tune’, what exactly does that mean? Or, ‘Can’t wait for <movie name>’, who exactly can’t wait for the movie?

At one level, it looks odd. It’s like a corporate headquarters building telling someone that it is humming a tune because it likes it. While that is absolutely possible in the next decade or two when most inanimate objects are given a voice and some technology-aided intelligence/sentience, right now, it looks odd.

These sentiments are not functional communication from a corporate handle. They are either by a person behind the handle or the corporate handle’s way of entering into tweet conversations to gain visibility from the fans of those content. In a way, fake an emotion to seem human (and I’m not using the word with an emotion of right or wrong; just the functional act of putting up a show).

Twitter has been around since 2006 and we have come a long way in understanding the mechanics of corporate social media accounts on any social media platform, not just Twitter. We started (in fact, I started Twitter accounts myself for brands like Lenovo India, LinkedIn India, Chevrolet India, among others… and PR agency handles like Text100 India and Edelman India – early days of social media in India, from the agency side, right from 2008), the world over, to create social media handles for brands, and have stumbled our way learning how to navigate the human angle. Should they take the tone, character and expression of one person, or should they adhere to a pre-decided set of tone and expressions guide so as to create a perception?

When I used to handle some of the corporate handles back in the late 2000s, I used to be extra conscious about how the tone and content should not overlap with my personal Twitter handle’s identity. I, the person behind the corporate handle, is very different from my personal Twitter handle that is just me and myself. For the former, I need to create a persona and stick to it. Despite my best efforts, a few folks found some overlaps in my handle and the brand handle and DM’d me to know if I was behind that corporate handle too 🙂

Now, in 2019, people have come to accept broadly that corporate handles need not behave like people. They can serve the simple purpose of talking about the brand and help at a functional level. They don’t need to put up a human persona and can remain operationally helpful.

We are grappling with more pressing updates in this area, like machines and robots (and voice-activated devices) displaying emotions when they speak, and how to deal with them.

I’m not sure if someone at Tata Sky has thought-through this. If they have, I’d love to know the logic of a corporate handle tweeting (without initials to denote the human behind that emotion), “Humming this tune”. It feels bizarre to imagine the entire Tata Sky building in Mumbai humming a Telugu song at 3pm.

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