Sunday, October 6, 2013

Web Wars

Polling and Social Media
Will you accept a friend request from your local MLA? Will you  read his manifesto on his Facebook page? Above all, will you watch YouTube videos of your local MLA addressing a rally?

With elections on the horizon, presence on ‘Social media’ seems to have caught the attention of political parties like never before. But the stench emanating from political cesspool is so nauseating that barring a few national leaders, voters are least interested in  those  who have suddenly discovered the power of social media.

Obama as an Inspiration


Obama tapped social media including podcasting, MySpace and YouTube for his political campaign. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama’s official website was run by Chris Hughes, one of the three co-founders of Facebook. Members of ‘my.barackobama.com’ created blogs, posted photos, and formed groups through the website. According to Hughes, thousands of events were organized through the website and nearly 400,000 articles were written in blogs. YouTube was flooded with videos that supported Obama.

The BJP think-tank is following the same model. While not many are interested in http://www.bjp.org/ , there is a certain buzz about the official fan page of Modi. Recognizing the need to address first-time voters, Modi is tweeting in more than a dozen languages. https://www.facebook.com/narendramodi  But I feel that irrespective of the trending topic or the number of followers, voters are unlikely to be swayed by tweets alone. Most may have already made up their minds.

On the other hand, it is too early to say whether hits on ‘HamaraCongress.com’ will translate into votes. For a balanced view, I logged on http://www.hamaracongress.com/. Notwithstanding the  views by their foot soldiers, I was disheartened by the video of Sanjay Jha dispensing gyan. Sadly, those who matter in the party were  conspicuous by their absence. No wonder, perception plays an important role in the virtual world.

Urban Phenomenon

We may be the third largest user of social media after US and China, but owing to the low density of internet access, social media usage remains largely an urban phenomenon. Less than seventy kilometers away from Delhi, in Bulandshahar, religion, caste and creed are the decisive factors. On the micro level, elections are fought on local issues facing each constituency. God forbid, unless there is a war, national calamity or a sympathy wave, it is the availability of water, electricity, affordable food, housing and jobs which play a major role on the voters mind. Policies like MNREGA, Food Security Bill, Land Acquisition Bill can be advertised via social media, but unless the voter experiences the positive outcome of such schemes, mere advertisement via digital armies is unlikely to sway the voter in a big way.

Timing

Undoubtedly, the first mover advantage goes to the BJP. Their PM nominee and his think-tank went on an overdrive much before the UPA woke up from slumber. Given the price rise, skyrocketing corruption and the dwindling economy, the social media blitzkrieg by the UPA 2 is perhaps too little, too late. Communication is an ongoing process. Once your overall image is dented, there is precious little social media can do to change perceptions. No wonder, UPA 1 managed and survived despite the marginal presence on social media.

Main Target - Smartphone Wielding Voter


With slow broadband connectivity and dismal internet penetration, the smartphone-wielding voter is the ideal target audience for our political parties. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) pegged the number of Internet subscribers in India at 164.81 million as of March 31, 2013, with seven out of eight accessing the Internet from their mobile phones. No wonder, Shivraj Singh Chouhan of the BJP is reaching out to his voters via an app called ‘ShivRaj’. Arvind Kejriwal of the AAP has downloadable apps to reach out to more lower middle class voters who own smartphones. 

If the political parties are luring the 12 crore first-time voters by sending friend requests, then they should have begun early. Now is perhaps too late! As for me, I haven’t met or heard my local MLA. I am unlikely to accept his friend request or follow his tweets. I am happy following national leaders on television. Which is why the presence of local politicians on social media may not be a game changer, yet. However, there is no denying that online trends are creating a huge buzz for national leaders.



Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8o1tmDXAJY

Link:http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2013/09/25/arvind-gupta-bjp-it-cell-head-on-partys-social-media-plans/

Link:http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/internet/india-is-now-worlds-third-largest-internet-user-after-us-china/article5053115.ece



(This article is originally on Friday Gurgaon) 
Pictures- Google Images

37 comments:

  1. India being so diverse, Political Parties need different platforms to address the varied voter base. And the Indian Polity has suddenly discovered the power of the Great Indian Middle Class and how Social media can make or break a carefully cultivated image.

    I see nothing wrong in Political leaders reaching out to us through social media platforms. How else will we know what our local MP/MLA is up to? I was reading somewhere - Modi rallies have thousands of collegians/fresh graduates, Hi-def screens and feedback forms! It takes a tech savvy leader to appeal to the educated class.

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    1. Most Congress neta's are realizing the potential of social media. It may be too late. It takes time to cultivate an image and become people friendly. This year, the web will work effectively for national leaders. By next year, it will surely play a decisive role even for the smaller players.

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  2. The divide between the true India and urban India is very wide so these forays into the world of gizmos and tech savvy promos are unlikely to make a big dent in the final outcome! I still would however wish that wisdom prevails in choosing leaders as end result is what matters!!

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  3. India is literally plagued by slow internet speed and less penetration. even then such viral campaigns do enough publicity.

    the divide is so huge here that within the same city, one can find ultra modern families coexisting with super conservative ones. Nice post indeed :)

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  4. Replies
    1. This year, the web will work effectively for national leaders. By next year, it will surely play a decisive role even for the smaller players.

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    2. I wish your optimism comes true.

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  5. I am following a few MLAs and candidates on FB. I see it as a welcome approach to reach out to electorate even if urban. I want them to reach out directly more often.

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    1. There arent many informed voters like yourself who can swing the elections this year. Social media will play a decisive role in 2018.

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  6. The sad truth is, Alka, that many of the 'voters' who are active on Social Media, don't even bother to cast their vote. During the last elections, many Mumbaikars chose to travel to nearby weekend resorts instead of casting their ballot! :(

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  7. Very pertinent point! The disenchantment is deep rooted.

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  8. I just hope Social Media campaigns connect to the voters in personal and convincing ways. Facebook, Youtube and the other platforms provide excellent premises for political parties and their electoral campaigns but the question is, Will these change the voter's impressions and force him/her to do some research before casting one's vote. I just hope that more people exercise their rights!

    Joy always,
    Susan

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    Replies
    1. True. Social media can be a potent tool depending on how and when it is used.

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  9. you know what, any one can use/misuse social media and the buzz that follows to rpopodgate their manifesto. What matters more, how much will the informed voters believe them? And the reason behind the disbelief is deep-rooted in the crippling governance the political parties have exhibited in the past. We do realize that it has become difficult to believe anyone who says negates others, and propogates himself.Furthermore, a more pertinent question is : due to this disbelief and disenchantment, how many informed voters actaully cast their vote?

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    Replies
    1. True. Will it sway the elections? Not really!

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. I agree with your POV about marginal impact of social media this time around. But mainly because I don't think even the largest buzz among the urban voters who have full access to social media can have a significant impact on the final election results, given how massively skewed it usually is towards rural voters.
    But it will still be interesting to see how our pols use this new tool. It does look like the BJP has the first mover's advantage. Plus, they also have a PM candidate with a distinctive presence on new media.

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    1. Yes, that's the point. We are active on social media but how many of us are writing blogs about politicians, their work, their ideas, their policies? When some of us write about politicians, people tend to to stay away from such posts. Anyway political ideology is dead. Politics is all about opportunism and self interests. Social media will create a buzz about national leaders but not really sway the elections in 2014.

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  12. True...
    I doubt internet can secure a seat at the center for India...internet users does not represent the voting majority, moreover most of the internet users do not vote...
    like always, it will be the rural India that will decide our fate...
    2014 will be interesting

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    Replies
    1. Just when we think it will be interesting Mulayam threatens us with his third front and Prime Ministerial ambitions!

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  13. Now that is where the tipping balance lies. Social media is too potent and it isn't just a medium of electoral canvassing, but to fan many other kinds of flames too.
    As for the public and the dent in the integrity and nobility of Congress brethren, public has goldfish memory. All we care is the past 6 months. That might actually be what Congress is doing right now.

    Nice analysis there!

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

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    1. You are right about public memory. But it is too late to tap the potential of social media in the absence of the feel good factor on the ground.

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  14. Replies
    1. Request Forwarded To The Election Commission.
      :)

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  15. Social media can have a deep impact on the voting system, but the truth is half the country is too underprivileged to be able to use it and that too properly.
    And even those who are well versed with how the social media works are too ignorant and carefree to bother about voting. they tweet, they update their facebook but do not cast votes for real.

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    1. Yup. The internet penetration is dismal making it an urban phenomenon.

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  16. When I signed up on Twitter,I didnt realise its power of communication.Now, I am addicted.
    In my opinion,elected represntatives or the political parties are taking SM route out of fear of being left alone,especially with the youth.

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    Replies
    1. For me Twitter is informative but chaotic.

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  18. It is good that social media is used by the politicians to tap the urban segment. I hope that the same segment goes out and votes too!

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  19. Though being active on Social Media, I hardly go to the websites of NaMo or BJP or Congress. The mind makeup is surely a result of the TV news and newspapers. Let's see how much this social media creates an impact on the final voting.

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  20. Most of the voters do not take an informed decision while voting. I wish there was a system where we can go and have a look at the track record of all the candidates from my area. Otherwise it is just a wild guess.

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    Replies
    1. The wild guess is between bad and worse.

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