Why Rajinikanth tripped on Twitter

By Satrajit Sen , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | May 07, 2014
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Soon after Rajinikanth's Twitter debut, a fiasco followed over the automated tweet replies leading to flak from fans. afaqs! finds out if celebs need social media agencies at all to manage their social presence.

The Thalaivar never goes wrong - whether it's catching a twirled gun or delivering iconic dialogues with characteristic aplomb. Well, almost never, except with his Twitter debut, where one gaffe after another dismayed his fans. And this, after the super star actually let a social media agency handle his account!

Right after Rajinikanth made his Twitter debut on his official account @SuperstarRajini, fans all across India went crazy. Till the time of writing the story, Rajinikanth had 235,000 followers on Twitter, huge number for a day-old account. In fact, the actor's account had gained more than 10,000 followers even before he began tweeting.

@SuperstarRajini Twitter account

Rajinikanth's Twitter profile pic

Soon after joining, the superstar made his first tweet - a personal one - greeting his fans. All was fine till the time his fans started tweeting to him on his timeline. People who tweeted to Rajini saw their account flooded with tweets that were apparently sent out by an automated bot. The replies contained an autographed poster of Rajinikanth's forthcoming film Kochadaiiyaan, perhaps a part of the broader digital marketing strategy of the film's producers.

Fluence, a celebrity digital network of CA Media, was the agency handling the superstar's presence on Twitter. CA Media is part of the Chernin Group founded by former News Corp president, COO and Fox Entertainment topper Peter Chernin. The company had launched Fluence as a digital celebrity venture.

The agency again goofed up big time when it resorted to the service called TweetDelete to delete all of the automated tweets. TweetDelete is an UK-based service that automatically deletes older tweets from one's Twitter account. However, unless instructed otherwise, it leaves an automated tweet on behalf of the user, letting the followers know about the service. The service was tweeted from Rajinikanth's account as well.

Rajinikanth's follower numbers

For Twitter users, it became evident that Rajinikanth wasn't really handling the account and Twitter was soon flooded with Rajini fans making fun of the automated tweets. The agency, believe experts, seems to have missed out a trick or two leading to needless public embarrassment.

What went wrong?

The hype and excitement surrounding Rajini's social availability could have been dealt with in a more mature and interactive manner, as people follow celebrities on Twitter to know their stars a little more than what magazines and tabloids cover. Also, they want to connect directly with their idols.

Automated replies from Rajinikanth's account

Opines Nimesh Shah, head, Windchimes Communication, "The agency could have been better prepared and could have adopted a better plan anticipating the kind of rage Rajinikanth's joining Twitter would have. They should have well-devised the first tweet and there was no need of replying to all. Essentially, it is against the norms of social media to auto-reply to each and everyone unless you are using this as a broadcast medium. Moreover, sending out Kochadaiiyaan posters seemed more like a marketing post for the movie than a personal tweet."

By using automated tweets and tools to manage identity, the agency gave out the communication that the celeb is mostly disengaged with the social platform and the fans' voices won't reach him.

Deleted tweet from Rajini's account

Moreover, while using TweetDelete, the agency could have selected the option where the platform doesn't post a tweet on behalf of the user. The tweet of Rajinikanth which said that he used TweetDelete made it worse.

"This is where other film stars like Salman Khan or Shah Rukh Khan's Twitter profiles set an example and it's mostly natural day to day thoughts that they tweet. In fact, Salman had even tweeted about the Kushal Tandon fiasco on Bigg Boss. Candid tweets is what celeb Twitter should be about," states Rajiv Dingra, CEO, WATConsult.

Nimesh Shah

Rajiv Dingra

Parag Gandhi

Moreover, as per Shah, tying up with Twitter India and using some exclusive tools would have been a better bet for the agency. "Twitter verified the account within hours and I guess they would have been happy to associate with the team and develop exclusive features for users," states Shah.

Moreover, since the account started giving out Kochadaiiyaan posters, users were confused whether the objective was to launch the superstar or his upcoming movie.

Besides, the agency seems to have failed to understand what Thalaivar (the brand) stands for, his fan following and their expectations from him. "Would he like to put his 'About' as 'The official handle of Superstar Rajinikanth' or something simpler and humble? The idea of replying to each follower was nice but that should have been more personalised and may be time-bound to avoid chaos," states Parag Gandhi, founder, Flying Cursor Interactive.

Keeping in mind the personal touch that Twitter stands for, the agency should stop all automated tweets and tools right away and focus on just one tweet a day. "But it must be something that showcases how superstar Rajini spends his day. He could tweet what he is having for breakfast or share an anecdote from an old movie; an old picture that's personal and not published can also be shared. Anything that brings fans closer to him should be the subject of the tweets rather than mere movie posters," states Dingra.

Why an agency?

So, if fans follow a living legend like Rajinikanth just to catch some personal glimpses, why should someone like him need an agency at all?

Many feel that if the celeb account is meant for connecting to users more than endorsing a brand, the celeb can tweet himself/herself.

Gandhi adds that in the case of Twitter, the answer is a big NO. "One can hire a consultant or bring an agency to understand the medium, trends, latest happenings, and techniques every now and then. But for individuals and especially for celebrities, Twitter should be much more than marketing round ups. It should reflect something which is you - honest, personal and live," he adds.

"Salman Khan, with all his grammatical mistakes, still finds takers for his tweets just because his tweets are real. The same can be said for Amitabh Bachchan. And finally, it doesn't take much for a celebrity to tweet himself, even if he intends to endorse a brand," states Shah.

There are countless examples of such celebrity and high profile corporate Twitter profiles that have done a great job and have created a great fan following for themselves. Such moments are hard to achieve with the help of an agency or ghost writers and hence it is advisable that celebs should use an agency only for consultation and not for posting a tweet.

And, as far as Rajinikanth is concerned, we will still follow him and await that personalised tweet. After all, we all love the Thalaivar!

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