The Indian Prime Ministers Office (PMO) launched its official twitter account yesterday. At the time of writing this story, there were just three tweets from the account, and it has 7824 followers (and counting). The launch of the account comes shortly after a change in the communications advisory position at the Indian PMO, with NDTV anchor Pankaj Pachauri joining to advise on media related matters; this has led to a few must-reads, if you’re interested in media and politics – this and this. Pachauri himself has over 27000 followers on Twitter, and where he has confirmed the PMO’s office is now on Twitter at @PMOIndia.
This is, by no means, the first government department to tweet – the Ministry of External Affairs was among the first to do it -but given the criticism that the Prime Minister of India faces, especially on Twitter, this is indeed a bold move. However, there will be challenges for the PMO: Twitter users can be rather abusive and condescending in their approach, especially when it comes to the antecedants of the government, and one should expect much spleen to be directed at the PMO account.
Typically, celebrities have had to take the good with the bad; the best strategy, if you ask me, is to ignore the abuse and the trolls, and converse with those being reasonable. That appears to be unlikely to happen because the risk that one takes with the PMO’s account is that any response can be misinterpreted or quoted out of context: the Indian media reports often on tweets, and one only needs to remind you of the ‘cattle class’ controversy Shashi Tharoor got involved in to give you an idea of how things get blown out of proportion. So far, the PMO appears to be playing it safe, but so safe that the account is worth ignoring – it just looks like a press release account, informing citizens of the Prime Ministers activities.
More To Come
The Indian government released a social media framework for departments to use, and slowly, we’re going to see more and more departments come online and use twitter and facebook. And it won’t just be government departments – my sense is that the 2014 elections will be a path-breaking event for the Internet in India, with extensive use of social networks by political parties to woo them, and it is likely that that spends on advertising by political parties will also set the stage for an increase in brand advertising online. The principal opposition party, the BJP, recently released its android application (as buggy as it was), and already has a presence on YouTube, Facebook, and applications for iPhone, Nokia, Blackberry, and Android. Get set for two interesting years of political activity in India.