Politicians find a media they love, and they’re getting social

The 2014 elections may well be the first to see the power of social media harnessed. Ritika Saxena gets social with politics and finds a digital strategy emerging.

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I am sure you have noticed the sudden surge in interest of politicians in social media. Apparently, Internet giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter are looking for their slice of an estimated Rs 500 crore digital spending pie for the general elections this year.

WHOA! I have one more fact that will make you go whoa, again. It is estimated that there are 814 million eligible voters, of whom more than 200 million are estimated to have access to the internet including over 100 million active on various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Yeah, you can go WHOA again.

I do not particularly remember any social media campaigns during the previously held elections. Until recently, the campaign strategies of political parties comprised rallies, and print, television and radio advertising. But the proliferation of the Internet, computers and smartphones in the past few years has prompted politicians to look at the potential of the online medium. Now politicians and their respective parties too are using social media to build a strong relationship with their audiences i.e., voters.

Political parties generally look to Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns for ideas on online elections. Like Obama’s social media campaign, AAP’s “Call Delhi” campaign ahead of state elections in December, where supporters were encouraged to telephone the local electorate. Those who made the most calls were personally congratulated, with their name, photograph and the number of calls they made displayed on the party website.

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Narendra Modi also seems to have dived head long into social media conversations with live-tweeting and live-streaming of videos of the rally, and a separate enclosure for people, who had registered online apart from pressing into service “apolitical” volunteers supporting Modi. They are constantly a part of the trending topics section on Twitter. Regular Twitter users tend to get pulled into such conversations.

But will a campaign like that work for a country like ours, where the internet penetration is far lower and the party budgets are relatively inferior too? Maybe. Maybe, not.

The recent trend we have noticed with regards to the influx of politicians on social media is that political parties are integrating YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google Hangouts and various microsites to reach out to the influential online community.

Online influencers then take the conversation offline to family, friends and professional circles, thereby playing an important role in influencing the masses.

The positive of use of social media during these elections is the mentioned influencers, motivating youngsters and this has ensured that a massive number of first-time voters will participate in the 2014 elections.

The use of social media also works well for the politicians and their particular parties, as they get to boost their own image. Like we wouldn’t know otherwise, but they assume social media is a public platform and since there are no regulatory guidelines or credible cross-checking tactics, they can tweet/post anything they want, creating larger than life images!

The fact that Modi is leading his rivals, Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal among the most mentioned political personalities on social media, says a lot!

Whether or not, social media will be a game-changer in the 2014 Elections is yet to be revealed. But we do know that the level of involvement is extremely high.

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