When text messaging first appeared as a feature on mobile phones in India, I discussed the power of SMS in many conversations with friends.
For example, SMS could destroy a party.
Imagine that I am invited to a party at Andheri. I go all the way there, only to discover that the party sucks. I look around the room and I see that a number of my friends who have been invited to the same party aren’t there yet; I quickly send them messages saying, “Avoid the party. It sucks.”
I couldn’t have done that in an age before SMS.
I could have called up all my friends, one by one. That would have been horribly tedious. Perhaps I would have truncated the list of friends that I would warn by a bit. And then, I had to get through to them…
And then came SMS, and I didn’t have to struggle. But it was still, largely, a process of one-to-one communication rather than broadcasting.
And now comes twitter and ‘#’, the hashtag.
First, twitter allows me to send out a message to all those who follow me with a single click. In a single second.
Then, thanks to the hashtag, I can ask all those who have read a particular tweet to send back responses with a defined hashtag and I can read all their responses in a jiffy. For example, I could ask them what they thought of Dabaang (not that I want to know, ever) and they could send in their responses, with a hashtag saying, for example, #dabaangforanant and I could get a sense of the movie immediately.
That’s an example of how I could use it positively.
I could also use it negatively. I could have a bad experience at a restaurant called, for example, Terrible Foods, and send out a tweet saying “Please do not go to #terriblefoods. It sucks.” All those who have seen the tweet and have been to the restaurant are likely to tweet back with the hashtag, and, if many of the tweets echo my sentiment, Terrible Foods will get hurt.
If Terrible Foods is digital and new media savvy, and they notice the noise, they would get in touch with all those making negative comments. Some might go back to Terrible Foods. Some might not. If Terrible Foods ignores the negative comments, wishing the problem would miraculously go away, here’s the bad news: it won’t.
Brands – and individuals – especially those in the public eye, will have to understand the power of the hashtag. And keep an eye out for any conversation that relates to them. When it’s positive, rejoice. When it’s negative, engage and figure out how one could contain the damage that is caused.
I don’t tweet furiously (@AnantCampaign), but I’m a decent twitter voyeur. I look around at various conversations, understand more about issue being discussed, contribute every once in a while. (Campaign India's Twitter ID is @Campaign_India).
And I can see tremendous possibilities. By the time you read this, I’ve posted this on twitter. “Any ideas on how to make the Abbys work? Responses to #savetheabbys.”
I’m going to follow this closely. I hope the Ad Club Mumbai and the AAAI do as well.
Let’s see if they befriend the # or ignore it. Befriending it could save the Abbys, ignoring it could see it dying.
Let’s start a movement. Let's Save the Abbys. See you later in the day.