POLITICIANS AND POLITICAL PARTIES HAVE TAKEN TO TWITTER LIKE A BIRD TAKES TO THE SKIES. BUT IN THIS AGE OF UNRESTRAINED SPEECH ON THE INTERNET, HOW CREDIBLE IS THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA PROPAGANDA?
INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
The INC’s official Twitter account also doubles up as Rahul Gandhi’s account, since he is not on Twitter. The account shadows Gandhi’s movements for the most part, chronicling his campaign. Gandhi has been lampooned plenty on Twitter for calling India “a beehive” and using terms like “escape velocity of Jupiter” to describe development, but the INC seems to have developed a thick skin to such ‘Rahulisms’ and is keeping pace with his words. Now “India is like a boquet” [sic]. No word on how to make this bouquet smell better, though.
As for the party’s propaganda, an image was tweeted on 21 March that supposedly reveals the funds UPA and NDA allotted in the state of Assam for various sectors. The idea is to highlight UPA’s generosity in pumping money into infrastructure and public welfare. Putting down other parties is the norm in politics, but pay attention to the fine print that cites the source: Tarun Gogoi, CM of Assam. Gogoi is a member of the INC. No external source has been cited. An INC member proclaims the UPA is better than the NDA. How can one not suspect bias in the numbers?
AAM AADMI PARTY
AND ARVIND KEJRIWAL
Kejriwal is like the class snitch – the one who would come to school just so he/she could rat out everyone to become the teacher’s favourite. Both his and AAP’s Twitter feeds are replete with retweets mostly from users who complain. Have you whinged about any political party, person, media channel or public service/facility? Your tweet is more likely to be retweeted by Kejriwal. Their social media strategy could be summed up as ‘Bash everyone in this country.’
The only original tweets from Kejriwal in the recent past were when he had a case of verbal diarrhoea.
Note how he provides no sources.
BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY
AND NARENDRA MODI
Modi was one of the first politicians to take to Twitter in 2009 and has since made his feed a factory that churns out his campaign details, opinions and his poetry. The BJP’s feed, on the other hand, is just retweets of its members for the most part. That said, their social media campaign is not without controversy. BJP member Priti Gandhi recently tweeted this And WikiLeaks responded with this:
THE BIGGEST INFLUENCER ONLINE
Modi is extremely influential due to first mover advantage and his interest in connecting with people. His intent was to gain popularity and clarify the issue of the riots. He gained supporters which he could not have with traditional media. His party’s agenda was different. Arvind Kejriwal and AAP are social media wonders.
They have used the medium for fund raising, recruiting new members and to collect people for offline gatherings. They have effectively shown what social media can achieve.
LOSS OF CREDIBILITY
Politicians do put their foot in the mouth – Kapil Sibal, Laloo Yadav and Shashi Tharoor are examples – because of inexperience and lack of maturity in the medium, but they will get around them eventually. Politicians are thrilled to be on social media and love to see how many likes they have on Facebook and who is saying what. More importantly, today, be it scams or any promises made during elections, those will be on record and politicians can always be held accountable for it later.
NO SOCIAL MEDIA FOR RAHUL GANDHI
Congress perceives social media as a medium only for urban people and says its voters are largely rural. But social media is pervasive and even basic phones have Facebook apps. There is a disconnection in Rahul’s approach to the youth here and it hurts his image. People want to follow individuals and leaders, not organisations.
BUILDING OUTREACH ONLINE
This is a work in progress. You have to have social media access as it is definitely an influencing factor. This is the first time India is using social media for its elections. In fact our politicians have been instrumental in bringing many people to social media.
US ELECTIONS V/S INDIAN ELECTIONS
AAP and Modi have drawn inspiration from Barack Obama’s campaign. However, none have a single campaigning strategy. There is duplication in the case of Modi and BJP since they have separate teams. This is not healthy; the party and the leader should be integrated. $47 million were spent in 2012 for Obama’s campaign and it worked brilliantly. It is yet to be ascertained how leaders are able to monetise social media campaigns in India. Social media is not just for elections but for making it a part of the personalities. It needs to be a bigger influence over time and not just a flash in the pan.
THE MORE YOUTH-FRIENDLY POLITICIAN
Milind Deora has a good following on Twitter and Facebook. He is more relatable online. He posts photos of himself jet-skiing in shorts, playing the guitar, inaugurating a public loo and so on. He has a more human approach and speaks the language of the youth.
Volume 3 Issue 10