The Twitter world is usually split right at the center over one interesting point – why do people retweet the compliments they get? It seems particularly odd when celebrities do it and do it with alarming regularity. Here’s an example from Chetan Bhagat’s timeline.

Now, let us consider the reasons and motivations.

1. Does it help in what we see in PR parlance as the holy grail of PR – 3rd party validation? In a way, are these celebrities sharing 3rd party validation of how good they are/their work is?

PR is known to do this too, but there is a fundamental difference – it was always aimed to spread through neutral publications and vehicles. So, PR teams look at getting these 3rd party validations and claims in seemingly neutral mainstream publications – the intent is obviously to convince readers about the fact that 3rd parties that don’t have any direct interest in saying good things about something…are saying it…in a mainstream publication. So it must be good, right? Or at least, that was the logic.

Things change when you change the place where these validations and claims are published. In Chetan Bhagat’s case, the positive reviews/points are posted in a channel owned by Chetan Bhagat – his Twitter profile. Why is that wrong? It is clearly not, but it comes with a rider – it’d display ONLY positive views and not negative. The negative views may be chosen by Bhagat for a conversation or a Twitter dispute, perhaps to fuel further interest and buzz in whatever he is selling.

2. How does this look like in the real world, if you move away from Twitter?
Person X tells Chetan Bhagat, ‘Revolution 2020 is a wonderful book. I loved the blah blah blah in it; thanks for this book, Chetan!’.

Chetan’s Retweet would almost sound like him standing on a stage and telling whoever cares to listen, ‘People, you know something? Person X feels my book is wonderful. Person X loved the blah blah blah in it and he thanked me for writing this book too!’.

I would assume, suddenly, that retweet doesn’t sound as exciting as it sounded earlier.

3. The other critical point – it is not the number of people who say good things about you on Twitter and your retweets, but who says them. If, for instance, Salman Rushdie on Twitter praises Chetan Bhagat’s new book (please collect your jaw from the floor – this is just an example), that is something he should most definitely retweet, perhaps with a note of gratitude – I’m sure you see the reason why. But why bother retweeting aam janta’s praises? I do understand the motivation however – spread as much positive views as possible yourself (since you own a media channel on Twitter) and hence spread the perception that a LOT of people like you/your piece of work. But I suppose celebrities don’t fully grasp how vacuous it may possibly seem.

There is a BIG difference between my stumbling on positive views of about something from my friends circle online, organically vs. coming across random strangers’ praise carefully curated by the owner of the product/service.

To be fair, it is not just Chetan – southern composers like GV Prakash Kumar and Yuvan Shankar Raja are known particularly to retweet twitter praise quite liberally. Many other celebrities do it generously too and there have been frequent murmurs on Twitter, about how silly it generally sounds.

It is strange that celebrities on Twitter are doing something they’d never even dream of doing in real life. They perhaps see sense in doing it – to spread an image (a very PR’ish tactic) about them/their work being loved by masses by highlighting a few/many of those praises. But the praises perhaps clouds their eyes and not let them see the irony of that act – the fact they are spreading those positive views/reviews from a communication channel completely owned by them.

I’m sure you remember those plug’ish articles in Times of India about how well Indiatimes or a Times’ owned radio station is faring…usually given very prominent positioning – in page 1 or a great business page spot. This is not wrong, of course – they own both the things in question and are at complete liberty to say/publish what they want.

But yes, it comes at the cost of losing at least a tiny part of their credibility. Ditto with such celebrity retweets – there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the act itself – the celebrities own the channel, they see/notice positive views and simply amplify it to their own benefit. Just that they may lose some credibility for such an incestuous act.

So, here’s an alternate suggestion for celebrities on doing the same thing with a bit more grace. When someone says great things about you/your work, instead of literally tom-toming it on Twitter via  retweet, you could respond to that person. But, very few people still know a basic rule related to replies on Twitter (meaning…the @username starts your tweet) – here it is, from Twitter’s help page.

  • People will only see others’ replies in their home timeline if they are following both the sender and recipient of the update.
  • People will see any mentions posted by someone they follow (all mentions are treated like regular Tweets).

That means a celebrity responding to a normal person (who praised his/her piece of work) may not be seen by the celebrities followers and others in general. To get such responses to help the celebrity from a PR point of view and without making it seem as cringe-worthy as a retweet, they could start the tweet with a dot (.) and then continue with their reply.

How does this help?

  1. At an operational level, the tweet, by nature of not starting with a @username, becomes a normal public tweet.
  2. Because it contains an @username, the concerned person will see it in his/her timeline.
  3. A response gives a great opportunity for the celebrity to show how human they are, in he choice of words they use to thank someone.
  4. Finally, and most importantly, it could help in an organic search by people who may be interested to know about the celebrity’s latest piece of work to check the original tweet that led the celebrity to respond. The better the response (in the choice of words), more the curiosity for others to see what prompted such a response.

But yes, this is just a suggestion. As I mentioned earlier, there’s nothing wrong with mindlessly retweeting every single positive tweet that comes your way. You may lose your credibility, but that’s something celebrities already deal with even in mainstream media.



16 thoughts on “The incestuous nature of self-praise on Twitter Retweets

  1. Another suggestion can be to retweet the negative comments also. Ah but then all the PR would come crashing down right? But no, it will pique the interest more and the celeb will not lose his credibility as he is being democratic right? Or is that too much to expect out of our celebs?

  2. reasons are obvious . ppl like chetan bhagat’s works if appreciated will only be appreciated by a 10th – 12th standard kid . ppl who ve grown up reading works of charles dickens , rk narayanan , jeffrey archer etc obviously know chetan bhagat’s works are meant for books to be thrown to the recycling plant for money or a bajji selling shop or a peanut vendor to fold the paper . his work is trash n him getting reviews for his work has obviously taken him aback that the praisee’s iq is so low that he managed to priase me . same lies with gv prakash n yuvan shankar raja – the best known plagiarists in tamil industry . to be creditted by some one that their work is original and is good has taken them by surprise and obviously they ve no other go but to retweet the few praise that they ll get . unless the person’s work is classy and his standards are high and unless he gets the praise from the best in business if he has low ambitions and standards he will obviously retweet the praises from the most novice people .

  3. Why r u so pissed , people ll go to any length to get publicity, celebrity status n above all money. Its upto the follower to have good judgement.

  4. I don’t follow any celebs, so can’t comment on their actions. However, singing one’s own praises (or to bump up those silly klout scores) by retweeting one’s mentions is quite a regular practice on Twitter, not restricted to celebs only.

    Some of the most common styles are: a) Answering each tweet by retweeting the original tweet b) Retweeting others’ retweet of your tweet c) Retweeting each #FF recco as well as each mention in somebody’s newspaper d) Retweeting+replying each time some brand mentions you.

    Using any of these occasionally is fine, especially in the right context, but pimping oneself 24X7 is just plain irritating to others.

    What they don’t seem to realise is they’re doing all this for the benefit of people who are following them anyway. Maybe it’s a way of showing how awesome they are or what a rocking social life they have. “Douchebag” is more like it.

  5. Tht tiitle caught my eyes. But unfortunately tehe article didnt impress me much. Everyone’s an attention-wh@%e Infact RT compliments is similar to citing customer testimonials!
    @17db467b7f8e8fa5f1cad57284bd664a:disqus but now that i have stumbled across this site…might as well go around!

    1. They are indeed like citing customer testimonials and are nothing wrong anyway. Only 2 differences – where they are shared (who owns the platform in which it is shared) and which voices are shared.

  6. I think it’s disgusting either way. Would we do that in real life? I’m sure some of us do, but to this extent? 

    Maybe holding a chat with ‘fans’ and keeping that conversation channel open with a .@ makes sense no?

    1. It does.But I get the impression very few celebrities,actually speak,or even want to speak with their fans.I think they prefer being worshiped/admired and RT good things said about them self.
      I’ve seen others tried to conversate with their idol on twitter,to no avail.
      I’ve also tried my self.
      But seen from their point of view:Everything they say can be taken out of context and used against them

  7. People like CHetan BHagat are self obsessed Narcissist…They do self PR for their self interest..
    Need to keep a little sense that we all are watching and do understand their motto..
    I had written fair reviews about his latest book and had rated his book honestly as poor one… he never ever bothered to reply to my tweets…

  8. When I first started using Twitter I couldn’t find a worthy use of the “favorites” feature. So I started just “favoriting” whenever someone said something nice about me. That’s how I’ve always handled it.

    Your suggestion to respond to the complimenter also makes sense. It’s one of those super obvious things to do when you step back and think about it. Your analogy of a presenter taking a stage and announcing that someone liked their work is _perfect_ for showing how context changes the nature of the compliment.

  9. Here’s one I found on twitter that I’m sure you won’t object to:

    Thank you
    sir, you are a discerning reader 🙂 RT @RaghavSDaga: @rajivmakhni sir i read your
    column today in “—-“… brilliant

  10. But it will be equally boring to see (dot)@username. For once to twice it is ok. But if a guy is getting 200 positive mentions and he want to thank everyone, it will be very boring.

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