Are Indian celebs making a hash of Twitter?

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Priyanka Chopra is the new millionaire on the Twitter block, having crossed the 10-lakh follower mark on Monday morning. But even as follower counts swell when B-town stars take to the platform to coo about their roles and Sunday brunches in 140 characters or less, are our celebrity tweeters really making an impact on the hordes that follow them?
Priyanka Chopra crossed the one million follower mark on Monday morning on microblogging site Twitter.
Skewed followers-tweets ratio
A quick comparison to international celebrities shows a chasm of difference. Popular tweeters like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga (both with over nine million followers each) post several tweets a day, not only promoting new singles, shows and events, but also chronicling their daily routines, likes and dislikes. In comparison, Sachin Tendulkar, who was the first Indian tweeter to cross the million mark last month, has only 239 tweets to his name. Bieber’s got 8,955 already.
Sometimes even a long hiatus doesn’t quell the climb. Aamir Khan, for example, has close to 700,000 followers on the microblogging site despite the fact that he hasn’t tweeted since last August but that hasn’t stopped his follower count from increasing.
Followers vs influencers
But the numbers indicate precious little, says Mahesh Murthy, CEO of digital advertising firm, Pinstorm. “Sachin and Priyanka Chopra have crossed the million-follower mark – but that’s not important. They are not among the top Twitter users in India ranked by influence,” he said.
Using a combination of two internationally accepted scales for measuring online influence, Pinstorm has found that the five most influential Twitter users in India do not include the trinity of Tendulkar, Shashi Tharoor and Chopra, but Barkha Dutt, Amitabh Bachchan, Bangalore humorist Ramesh Srivats, journalist Sidin Vadukut and Gul Panag. Priyanka ranked 14th and Sachin ranked 10th. “Celebrities outside India understand it’s not just about the number of followers, but about your engagement with them. What makes for an interesting person to follow on Twitter is not their celebrity-hood, but the content of their tweets, the frequency and their interaction with people who reply to them or ask them questions,” said Murthy.
Talking but not listening
Indian celebrity tweeters follow a remarkably low number of people. Murthy adds, “You can’t be a prima donna and just talk but not listen. For example, Piggy Chops has over a million people following her, but she follows only a 100. Sachin follows even fewer – just 8 people. This is a sure sign that you’re not here to listen and have a conversation, but just to keep mouthing off.”
Markets not fully mature yet
Others feel that follower counts haven’t shattered the ceiling just yet because of internet habits. “For the 100 million internet users in India that the statistics keep telling us about, email is still the only thing they use the medium for. There’s also the language barrier and so if there’s a tool that will convert tweets into Hindi, follower counts could grow. You can’t expect the stars to tweet in Hindi unless they’re promoting a movie and that’s what they need to do. But yes, stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Sachin would have reached the million follower mark quicker if they were simply more engaging with their followers,” said Prashant Deorah, MD of Puretech Internet.
Fans over tweeters
Adman Prahlad Kakkar has a different viewpoint. “Twitter in India right now is driven by fans more than an intelligent crowd that is seriously assessing the content of tweets left. If international celebrities tweeted rubbish, their followers would turn around and fart right back in their faces. Here in India, though, if Rajinikanth was even so much as auctioning a hair from his underarm, there’d be a fan waiting to pay good money just to have a part of him. The follower counts for Indian Twitter celebrities are just a reflection of this fandom,” he said.
Ghost tweeting still a no-no
In the meantime, outsourcing tweets is still an option frowned upon. Says Deorah, “As a user, I would hate to think that the stars aren’t tweeting themselves. I’m following them for their personal point of view, not their agent’s. And it’s only 140 characters. As an agency, we could provide them with interesting insights or topics based on what we’ve learned from diagnostics that could give them some inspiration, but that’s it.”

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