Campaigns from the streets have moved to newspapers, radios, television and now even onto the cyberspace. Campaigns can be of any type, social, NGO, political or marketing. Based on the demographics that you want to reach, particular medium is chosen.
The usage of social media by US politicians has been very aggressive. The websites, twitter & facebook accounts are synced, maintained and updated frequently, sometimes every hour.
Apart from these standard social networking platforms, google hangouts are now used to interact on a more personal basis. Hangout functions as an interactive TV. Now, US’s demographics show that there is a majority of people currently aged 20-35 who are very active internet users but not big on voting.
So to appeal to them, what better platform can the politicians get than Social Media? So US President Barack Obama went online on Reddit, which is a unique social media platform, you can post a news and interact with others using comments and based on number of upvotes or down-votes, your post appears higher on the front page – he generated a cool 2,00,000 visits which was enough bring down the site for a while.
‘likes’, ‘shares’,’Retweets’and ‘upvotes’ may not necessarily transform in to votes during elections but they ensure a reach to an otherwise politically uninterested, demotivated (due to lack of jobs) and hence frustrated section. When Mitt Romney’s wife took to the stage, 2500 tweets were recorded per minute. But most were puns or jokes, taking the spotlight away on the twittersphere.
In India, the story changes altogether.
Hardly any of the politicians are actually active on any of the social media platforms. There is an official facebook page and a twitter account for Dr. Manmohan Singh but it isn’t interactive as compared with US President Obama. Hardly any of the politicians accounts active as of now.
This has two reasons
1) Majority of internet users aren’t eligible to vote
2) Social Media scrutiny
Currently 50% of our population is below 25 years of age, and average age of an Indian is 25. This will change by 2020, as the average age then will be 29. So till I think the politicians don’t find the Internet as a powerful tool yet.
But the use of social networking by Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat is comparable to his US counterparts. Today he is slated to go online on Google Hangout at 8 pm.
He has been active on twitter and on Facebook too. The official website also is very interactive and regularly updated as compared to the websites of other Indian politicians.
Other politicians active on twitter are Shashi Tharoor, Dr. Subramanian Swamy, Sushma Swaraj, Baijayant Jay Panda (Odisha) among others.
Social media scrutiny is another thing that keeps the politicians at bay. If someone is wrong on the internet, it becomes the responsibility of each netizen to correct him. And if anything on a social networking site raises a storm it eventually finds its way on to the other mediums. Mr. Shashi Tharoor is an example of this. Occasionally his tweets used to be in the eye of the storm, but one tweet about economy class on airplane was the final nail in the coffin.
He resigned as the Minister of State for the Ministry of External Affairs in less than a year after being sworn in to the office.
If one holds a public office or is a public figure, the responsibility to tweet, share and retweet cautiously becomes more important. Since now many US politicians have been featured on Reddit, and have been successful in keeping it as clean as possible and probably achieved even what they wanted. Here is an example of a PR move gone wrong. Woody Harrelson, an actor / director went on Reddit to promote his latest movie, somehow things escalated and the whole chat became about how he slept with one of his students 10 years ago.
What’s your take on use of Social Media usage for Political campaigning ?