You must be living in a cave if you are not familiar with Ab Ki Baar Modi Sarkar or Acche din renewable hai. The 2014 General Assembly Elections in India will be remembered for many reasons – primary among them being a heavily lopsided mandate issued by the people and India getting its first born-after-independence Prime Minister. But the use of social media as a campaigning tool by political parties was a landmark episode that took many by surprise and sent many squandering to try and analyze its impact on the ultimate outcome.
Social Media as a campaigning tool was an ingenious idea that turned gold. Of the 500 plus million voters on the rolls, approximately 100 million were first-timers. Most of these first-time voters, or even second time voters, are very active on social media. Targeting them through social media was always inevitable. According to a report, an estimated Rs. 500 crore was spent by political parties for digital campaigns in the run-up to the elections.
While it is hard to say how much of a part social media played in securing votes for any of the political parties, it is definitely undeniable that it played a significant part in creating a brand and an awareness amongst voters. If the election results and social media stats are to correspond, it is no surprise that Narendra Modi has been active on Twitter for over 2 years now with nearly four and a half million followers. Trailing him is Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal who joined Twitter just after forming in the party in 2013. The worst case scenario here can be sketched by the fact that Rahul Gandhi, widely considered as the Congress party’s discreet Prime Ministerial candidate, has no official website of his own, nor is he active on any social networking platforms.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do … To appeal to a young voter base, BJP adopted an aggressive social media strategy that not just promoted its Prime Minister candidate, but also connected with young voters in a manner that they could identify with. Hashtags such as #AccheDin, #AbKiBaarModiSarkar, #SelfieWithModi, etc., made sure BJP and Modi kept up the momentum in the build-up to election dates.
A general look at this map shows how the Narendra Modi/BJP buzz was kept going throughout online the campaign and beyond.
Similarly, the following graph shows how BJP’s social media campaigning surged ahead of the elections and stayed abuzz even through polling phases. The marked difference between BJP and other parties in this graph clearly demonstrates the correlation between virtual popularity and real-world popularity.
Additionally, while almost all leading parties had digital media agencies handling their digital publicity, Narendra Modi himself too was involved in the process. He tweeted selfies, discussed policies, and even tapped into unknown territory by hosting a Google+ Hangout. His Facebook page’s content almost trailed Modi on the go – his rallies, interviews, meeting with celebrities, etc. The message that Modi’s personal involvement in social media was sending out was that he understood the pulse of the nation and that he wanted to be involved with the youth of the nation to take the country forward.
The other parties need to introspect – not just with their political strategies, but with their digital marketing strategies as well. The social media space was something they clearly saw as just a cherry on top. The party that saw it as the staple of the batter ran away with the cake!
The “Master Blaster” Sachin Tendulkar received over 4,000 retweets after posting a selfie of his ink-stained finger writing: