I joined Twitter about 18 months ago because I was going to be attending a film festival in New York and I thought it would be a handy way to post timely, brief blow-by-blow descriptions of what was going on around me, which actors were present, what they had to say during the Q&As, etc.
The other reason was because I noticed that ever-increasing members of the Indian film fraternity were also dipping their toes in this very immediate form of social media, and I was curious to see what they had to say.
While some prominent film personalities (Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan, Rahul Khanna, Shahrukh Khan, for example) seemed to quickly grasp the potential of Twitter to bring their fans closer to them by sharing some parts of themselves and their lives publicly, there were also quite a few people who started Twitter accounts at the urging – I would guess – of their publicists. And these folks soon proceeded to use their Twitter streams as free channels where they could broadcast to the world nonstop ads for their latest pet project. And it is the latter group who miss the whole point: Twitter is supposed to be a conversation, a give-and-take between you and a whole bunch of people, not a uni-directional monologue.
For a while now, I’ve been itching to share some unsolicited advice in the form of suggested Dos and Don’ts for the famous filmi folk out there who are already on Twitter, or who are thinking of joining. First, the positive reinforcement.
• Do the travelogue stuff, but keep it interesting. We realise you are busy and affluent and you travel a lot. But please, don’t just keep announcing which airport business lounge you’re currently cooling your heels in or what city you’ve just touched down in, add something about your relationship to that city that we most likely don’t know.
I saw Abhishek Bachchan tell a TV reporter a few weeks back that many years ago while on a school trip to Florence, Italy, he decided that he wanted to go into the family business. I don’t think he tweeted that when he was in that lovely Tuscan city recently for a shoe fitting at Ferragamo, but he should have.
• Do tweet photos, especially if they’re fun, casual shots of you and your friends or co-stars, say, at Sunday brunch or on some exotic location for a film shoot, especially if you’re in an imperfect state of dress or undress, with your hair still in curlers or your make-up not yet finished. It’s a little glimpse into your life that your followers will enjoy.
• Do be bold and take a stand. I absolutely love following Ram Gopal Varma because he comes out with some real “corkers” as my late mother would call them (that’s an Irish expression for “choice words or phrases”), and because he often gets into back-and-forths with other film people that I can best describe as “interesting”, when not downright juicy. This is exactly why people follow celebs on Twitter, they’re hoping for some glimpse of the “real” person behind the carefully curated glossy persona.
• Do share, whether it’s links to interesting articles or blog posts that you’ve just seen, or re-tweets of people you follow who’ve just said something that made you stop and think, or laugh, or that touched you. It’s always gratifying to see that a well-known actor or director has something else on his or her mind than just his or herself, and I’m always happy to learn something new while killing time standing in line at the supermarket, for example.
• Do avoid too many abbreviations or teen speak. Perhaps I’m a bit biased because I read and write a lot, but I know I’m not the only one who thinks it gets terribly grating to read tweets by people who do things like try to save space and use the letter “d” as a replacement for “the.” The effect when I read those tweets is that I no longer hear your voice in my head. Instead, I hear someone else, a stranger, speaking in a strange patois of sorts.
Here’s a revolutionary idea: If you have so much to say and 140 characters don’t suffice, write two tweets in a row so you can complete the thought! I haven’t gotten to the point of un-following Genelia D’Souza just yet, but I do find myself getting very close for this exact reason.
• Do reply to at least some people, some of the time. We know that if you’re Salman Khan or Priyanka Chopra and you have followers by the lakh, you can’t reply to each and every person, but if you can send a few strategic replies to a few fans or commenters, and those don’t just say “Thanks for all the love and support” but also include some interesting little tidbit. They’ll be appreciated not just by the person to whom you’re responding, but also by the other people reading you, because maybe they’ll have just learned something new.
And now for some gentle raps on the knuckles:
• Don’t re-tweet every compliment or mention of you by others. We already know you’re famous; you don’t have to also prove to us how popular you are. For your followers, it’s gets really boring, really fast. Mallika Sherawat, I think you’re gutsy and sexy and fun, and I loved you on Koffee with Karan, but I had to stop following you for that very reason.
• Don’t go all silent on us. If you sign on to this thing, you need to get in the habit of posting something at least once a day, so we know you’re alive. If you’re only going to post once every week, or worse, every couple of months, you might as well kick it old school and write a letter.
• Don’t suddenly get active because you have a film coming out. If you haven’t been tweeting in the weeks and months while you were shooting whatever soon-to-be-released flick you’re now so obviously promoting, don’t bother. We’re following you because we like you and have an interest in you, and ergo, want to know more about what you’re up to and what you’re thinking.
If your Twitter stream becomes just one more propaganda channel for your latest release, we’ll get turned off really fast. This is why I un-followed Hrithik Roshan. I love his work and his dancing, but he seemed to only tweet on the eve of Kites and Guzaarish opening.
• Don’t tweet the most mundane stuff in your life, unless there’s something really interesting about it this one time. “Ok, tweeple, off to bed now, good night!” doesn’t interest me in the least, even if it were to come from the enigmatic Nana Patekar. But if you tweet that line while you’re on location in the Amazon, camped out in a tent village with your cast and crew, and you follow it by “I hope I don’t find any more tarantulas in my slippers when I wake up”, that’s o.k. then.
Here are a few of my favourites on Twitter (and their Twitter handles) who I would recommend giving a dekko: Ram Gopal Varma (@RGVzoomin), Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan), Abhishek Bachchan (@juniorbachchan), Rana Daggubati (@RanaDaggubati), Rahul Khanna (@R_Khanna), Anurag Kahsyap (@ankash1009), Rohan Sippy (@rohansippy)
And finally, should you so wish, you can find me on Twitter too: @filmiholic.