Deputy editor Chitra Narayanan
Personalisation is all the rage nowadays. Every brand is trying to outdo each other in individualising and customising offerings to each and every one of its customers. So, it was not surprising to see our very "with it" Prime Minister send private messages - or direct messages (DM) - to his social media followers on the first anniversary of his government.
As one marketer put it, this was "personalisation at mass scale in a matter of seconds"! Undoubtedly, a huge amount of technology and effort had gone into it.
And sure enough, it caused a frenzy on Twitter - with almost everyone tweeting screenshots of their messages from Modi. No doubt it will get due publicity on other channels as well, and the custodians of Brand Modi will pat themselves on their backs for a great publicity exercise.
But now, let's get down to analysing the impact. Since Mr Modi had invited me to "check out" the One Year website, I dutifully did so. As expected, it was glorious self-promotion - pictures, videos, flyers, snapshots on good governance and so on. In short, an annual report in a snazzy mobile-friendly avatar.
Full marks for presentation, only half marks for content - mainly because promises were treated as though already achieved. There's many a slip between the cup and the lip, Mr Modi - and there you seem to have been getting a little ahead of yourself.
If a brand had done a similar exercise, and direct messaged us or sent mass mails, we would have lost no time denouncing it roundly for spamming us. But since it was the Prime Minister of India, we will refrain from doing so. After all, when the PM texts us, sends us emails, or speaks, he is doing the nation a favour, right? His 'mann ki baat' might just have stuff of national importance.
But while this works on television and over radio and even those screaming 90-point one-page print advertisements - sorry Mr Modi, Puratchi Thalaivi Jayalalithaa unfortunately stole your thunder there - the rules in digital media are a bit different. Here it is all about engagement and interactivity, not one-way communication.
One would have thought Modi's social media team, which logged him into Weibo, the Chinese Twitter-like network to connect with citizens behind the bamboo curtain and did a commendable job there, would have done better.
Ironically, Modi's crack social media team did not even need to look far for inspiration. All they had to do was to take a leaf out of the railway minister's book. Soon after the railway budget was presented, Suresh Prabhu sent an email to all IRCTC registered users providing them with a link to the budget documents and telling them of the plans of railways and inviting feedback and suggestions. It was a beautifully written email and although my eyes glazed over the documents, my respect for the railway minister shot up. Here was transparency, interactivity, and done in a gracefully understated way.
During H.D. Deve Gowda's brief rule as Prime Minister, a popular joke in government circles was - only three Ms matter - DM, CM and PM. In today's context the PM and CM will only matter if they can use the DM better!