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