Like many things these days, it began with a tweet. On November 20, a Twitter user in Salem, Tamil Nadu, India, mistakenly tagged the Salem Police Department here in Oregon in a tweet complaining about rickshaw fares.
Mr. Arunand T A sent the tweet unaware that he tagged the wrong account.
The Salem Police account simply responded, “We are the Salem Police in Salem, Oregon, USA.”
Upon realizing the error,
he replied, “I knew US had a Salem whilst Tamil Nadu State in India also has one. Never thought I would wrongly tag you folks. Thanks for the reply, nevertheless.”
There are more than 50 cities around the world called Salem, so being mistakenly tagged on social media is not uncommon for City of Salem, Oregon, social media accounts. Usually the interaction ends after the City’s account sends a friendly message letting the person know their message didn’t reach the intended target. This time however, was different.
Instead of being buried in the cascading waterfall of the Twitter stream, the error was noticed by social media users in Arunand T A’s native country, and the conversation quickly racked up 792 likes, 581 retweets, and 46 comments. Many respondents simply laughed at the error. However, some people started a conversation over why the local police in Salem, India, didn’t have a Twitter account.
Soon the commander of local traffic safety in Salem, India, replied to the conversation with smile emoji. Her tweet was liked more than 3,000 times and retweeted more than 1,000 times.
“Clearly social media engagement is important to that community,” said Salem, Oregon, Police Community Relations Analyst Angie Hedrick. “I didn't discover the tweet had gone viral until
the department’s Twitter account blew up on Thanksgiving Day. They were very grateful that a government agency took the time to respond on social media.”
But wait, the story gets better.
Hedrick spent some time responding to questions and chatting with users who shared comments and well wishes. Yet, @TAAspeaks, the original tweet sender, was not done asking questions. He followed up inquiring if Oregon really had a town named Madras. Apparently, Tamil Nadu’s capital city was once named Madras, and the state of Tamil Nadu was at one time named Madras.
In the hours and days that followed, the international exchanges continued. On November 24,
a Twitter user tweeted a 1962 photo when Madras, India, and Salem, Oregon, celebrated a sister city relationship. “I had no idea,” said Hedrick. “I knew about our sister cities with Japan and South Korea, but seeing the photo was so much fun. I knew I had to share it with City staff.”
In the meantime, the conversation stream reached the attention of Indian newspapers and had crossed into Facebook territory. A follow up tweet from Arunand T A revealed he had successfully gotten the attention of a local deputy superintendent who confirmed that Salem Police in Tamil Nadu did not yet have a Twitter account, but would look into starting one.
The Twitterverse was still not done. On November 25, a Salem Police officer in Tamil Nadu tagged the Salem Police Department account in a tweet with
a photo showing a meeting in progress with local cab and rickshaw drivers about their rates.
Twitter user @_Dhilip_ sums it up best, “Dear, @SalemPoliceDept’s admin, This wrong tagging matter went viral after your reply!! Thanks for being jovial and kind reply.."”