In a world where real time broadcasts from a mobile device have made your voice travel faster than light, the impact, and the perils of this cannot be underestimated. If you are a celebrity, then you have already seen both.
While needs and styles of using Twitter for engaging the community may all be different for a cinema star, a political leader or a business leader, these handy tips should equally help all of you celebrities stay out of trouble.
- Two’s a crowd – First things first, don’t use Twitter for private conversations through DM. There is a good chance that as a result of technology malfunction, or a human error, you’ll end up sharing your private conversation with your followers. If your life is indeed as interesting as a few million of them think it is, you have given them, and the media, some juice.
- If you are a star, ignore this advice and in fact try this before your next movie/ album/ book release – might just give you the boost you seek.
- Sexting on Twitter is injurious to health – Not only is it likely that the object of your affection might not be the person he/ she claims to be, totally wasting your effort, but it can end up being a public embarrassment as U.S Congressman Anthony Weine found out when he ended up sharing a sexually suggestive picture on Twitter. He ended up resigning from his post.
- In an always-on world, with our mobile devices perennially logged in to various social networks, it’s easy for us to not realise we have sent out a tweet, instead of a text message to a friend.
- If need be, keep separate devices for your public and private lives.
- Casual conduct often results in unfortunate casualty – Last month, Adam Orth, the Microsoft Studios Creative Director came under criticism for his sarcastic tweets in response to the rumour that the next Xbox would require an active internet connection at all times. The company issued an apology soon after and Adam is said to no longer be with the company.
- The cafe-like nature of Twitter and the informal nature of conversations can often lead us to confuse it with being a ‘casual’ medium. It is not, and what we say on Twitter can and will be used against us, including in a court of law, as some others have discovered.
- Claiming ‘my account was hacked’ might work once, if at all, but won’t work the second time. Do respect the intelligence of fellow citizens on Twitter – they are very smart people – and admit a lapse if you need to.
- D for derogatory on Twitter can often lead to D for defamation – Linked with the previous piece of advice, just as New Zealand’s Chris Cairns’ filed a legal case against Mr. Lalit Modi for accusing him of match fixing on Twitter, there are many reminders to public figures that lack of accountability is only a prerogative of the anonymous.
- You shall be judged – Even as Kingfisher Airlines failed to pay the dues to its employees, Junior Mr. Mallya came under fire for his tweets about ‘playing volleyball with 12 bikini clad models on the beach’. The same flamboyance that in the past was his claim to fame, was seen as irresponsible and annoying given the context of the poor business performance.
- It is important as a public figure to be aware and sensitive to the public sentiment and never forget that social media is not quite the water cooler conversation space, especially for public figures who are judged for every move.
- People are also judging you for your intelligence, empathy, values and so much more – yes, the perils of being just a Tweet away.
- You can’t beat the trolls – In November 2010, the controversy around the Radia tapes and the 2G scam embroiled several prominent public figures including politicians, business heads, and senior journalists. When Open Magazine published the transcript of the recording between Ms. Nira Radia and senior journalist Barkha Dutt, the latter found herself surrounded by criticism especially on social media. She took to Twitter to clarify her position but found vituperative trolls overwhelming the conversations with #barkhagate, which became a trending topic.
- Do explain your position transparently, but understand the futility of expecting rational behaviour from trolls.
- “When you don’t have a reputation, all you want is attention”, is how I often explain the phenomenon of why pebble throwers enjoy what they do and how engaging them one-on-one empowers them by giving them a sense of victory and in fact added virality. As a celebrity – you are the vulnerable one here.
- I must add that in times of responsible and transparent governance, sometimes public outcry against a public figure might not just be desirable, but in fact necessary. Not everyone joining these conversations can be written off as a ‘troll’.
- Understanding the cultural context – Mr. Shashi Tharoor’s infamous ‘cattle class’ comment which then cost him his ministerial position is a classic example of how a message can get misconstrued if it lacks an understanding of the cultural nuance by those consuming the message (sometimes outside of Twitter).
- Lend your credibility carefully – As a celebrity your word has weight, and reach, which puts you in a position of responsibility. Do be careful about whom you endorse; which messages you support; they can come back to haunt you, or can certainly haunt your conscience later.
- Controversy may sell movies and books, but is not necessarily good for your business – A business leader trying to emulate a movie star’s style is a recipe for disaster – might just work if you are a political leader
- Is controversy your natural style? If not, why bother copying someone else’s style?
- Depending on the nature of your work, and style, people have different expectations from you. Being yourself will not just allow you to use Twitter with ease but also make you authentic and unique for the community.
- Don’t play the victim – ‘that’s’ not fair – Every day there is a young political leader who plays the victim on Twitter. He has strong credentials, being well-educated and articulate, and is a worthy candidate but has arguably reached his current position of power with relative ease given his political lineage. Of course his job is tough, the region is volatile, but to expect sympathy for playing his designated role? To play the victim? C’mon ‘that’s’ not fair.
- We are looking up to you as a leader, winning our trust and respect is in your tweets
- Bonus tip: Don’t threaten to quit Twitter – we know you don’t intend to
- Like I said earlier, this junta is really smart. It knows more about you than you think it does.