I noticed a tweet from fellow-Twitterati and friend Nikhil Narayanan this morning.

Dr. @ShashiTharoor should advise @PMOIndia to respond to @ messages, at least once in a while. Now @PMOIndia is no better than a bot. (Link)

Shashi Tharoor responded to the tweet too, in a few minutes.

@nikhilnarayanan glad to echo the advice to @PMOIndia to respond to messages. I gave the same advice to @indianDiplomacy &they do! (Link)

But, I don’t agree to Nikhil’s tweet.

Just because a communication tool enables two-way communication, it does not mean it always needs to be used for two-way communication. My point is, it is up to the user and the intent, as imagined by the user.

If, for instance, the PMOIndia handle on Twitter was primarily imagined as a information dissemination tool, it need not respond to anybody. Without responding to anybody and following just 12 other Twitter users, it has 103,521 followers. That would perhaps explain that there are at least 1 lakh+ people who are (possibly) clued into what the handle wants to say.

You could argue,
– that people will lose interest if they don’t hear back.
– that it merely replicates television and is a dumb use of ‘social media’
…and so on.

But, consider the other side of the story. What if someone handling the Twitter handle reads Nikhil’s tweet and Shashi Tharoor’s response and in a fit of inspiration, responds to 5 people today?

That sets an expectation that the handle had thawed its approach and has finally become interactive.

Has the Prime Minister’s Office planned for the follow-up of the barrage of tweets that would ask/request/demand responses? If not, it is far better to not respond and continue to use it as a broadcast tool.

There is no simple, common rule for Twitter. It is what you want it to be.

Most people use Twitter in a particular way. There are some who use it in their own way and PMO India handle is one of them.

Other people who use Twitter in ways similar to PMO India, from what I have seen, include,

Praveen Swami, of The Hindu – He clearly mentions in this profile, this: ‘I work for The Hindu in New Delhi. Sorry, but I don’t respond to messages, queries or requests to debate issues on Twitter

Baradwaj Rangan, a well-known movie critic – He uses twitter to only broadcast his reviews that have been published in his blog, or elsewhere…more like a glorified RSS feed.

Is there something wrong with these approaches? Of course not – calling them wrong or improper use of Twitter would be looking at Twitter from your personal perspective of Twitter or from conventionally acceptable (by whom?) standards of using Twitter. That’s where the allegation goes for a toss, since the purpose is defined wrongly in the first place.

Could Praveen Swami, Baradwaj Rangan and Indian Prime Minister’s Office gain from the conversation? Could they build on more followers if they start responding and interacting? Of course, no doubt on that. But it is something that they need to be prepared too, from a time-management perspective. I assume that they are not prepared, at least for now. And that’s perfectly acceptable. Twitter is not going to shut their handles down just because they don’t interact. And their followers are not going to stop following them either, because they perceive some value even with the plain broadcast. I, personally, don’t follow Rangan on Twitter – I find no value in it; I have subscribed to his blog’s RSS feed and that is enough for me. But I do follow Praveen Swami on Twitter, since he links to his articles and there may not be a unified place to find them consistently.

Having said all this, however, I’d perhaps urge PMOIndia to consider making the intent clear, in the bio, like Praveen Swami. Right now, it is, ‘Official Twitter account of the Prime Minister’s office, New Delhi. Pages may be archived under IT Act.’. That may be misleading to a large number of Twitter users since they see the platform in a particular way based on the way most people use it.

I had briefly hinted at a radically different use of Twitter, for Salman Khan’s entry, sometime back, that hinted at such an unconventional use of Twitter.

Related read: Should brand responses on social media be real-time? You have a choice!



8 thoughts on “Should the @PMOIndia handle start interacting with people? I don’t think so.

  1. I have a different view on the “purpose defined wrongly in the first place” statement. As you have mentioned yourself people’s expectations from the platform are based on its usage.

    If PMO simply wants to disseminate press releases there are plenty of ways to do it. People use twitter because it can do much more than that. So now when you set up a twitter account and say I will use it only as an outlet for releases people are bound to get disappointed.

    Interactivity is a different issue and even I am of the view that replies to quries will open a pandora’s box. However I do expect it to be Dr. Manmohan Singh’s twitter account than PMO’s twiiter account. It would be great if our Prime Minister expresses his views/visions/forecasts on various topics (those not bound legally ofcourse) and give the citizens a peak into his thinking process.

    Barack Obama’s tweets for example are of two types. One set of tweets are by his PR team and there are others where he tweets himself, expressing his views/reasoning on various topics (he signs off as B.O to distinguish his tweets from that of his PR team).

    Imagine Dr. Manmohan Singh doing something similar. There is still no need to reply to queries, but the very idea of our prime minister expressing his own views would delight citizens, considering that his track record is not really exceptional.

    1. I like your point of view, Karthik (there are too many Karthiks online, I tell you 🙂 ), but I suppose we’re again seeing everything from personal points of view or generally accepted ways of using Twitter. That’s still flawed, in my opinion.

      Why not treat Twitter as yet another way to disseminate press releases? If a corporate does it, people may not follow it, but if PMO does it, I’m sure there is an audience segment that may be interested in it, on Twitter.

      I completely agree on MMS expressing his views on Twitter – that’s a given, even for me. But again, even you say, ‘I do expect…’. And I expect it to. Those don’t mean he has to do it, simply because he may not be prepared, time-wise to do it. Once he starts doing it, it is nothing but Pandora’s Box – because it sets new levels of expectation. If he can’t live up to that, that’d do far more damage than what it is doing now.

  2. Karthik,

    There are tons of Social CRM solutions which can monitor these tweets / listen to keywords / filter out noise / create service requests / assign them to the right person / Email Reminders / allow responding from the CRM system itself etc., I have a feeling it can be handled quite easily,

    Of course, Here I am assuming PMO’s office is not a single person checking twitter every hour, But a full fledged support system which wants to listen / respond to queries from general public. If they wanted one way communication only, they can make it clear in the “Twitter Bio”

    Naga Chokkanathan

  3. Well if that is the case then as you have said let the PMOIndia say it in the bio that I resemble the offline character of our PM. Let them say i am just a Bot and my work is to spam networks with press release and tell you where the PM is.
    We Indian’s can’t expect more than this 🙂

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