This General Elections 2014 in India is going to be a litmus test for Social Media too, other than the traditional political rhetoric . The expansion & reach of social media platforms have grown phenomenally in last five years in India. In General Elections, held in year 2009, social media has no influence & reach . In General Election in 2014, social media is buzzword among politicians and electorate alike. For many of the electoral battle in urban India, Face book likes and Tweets will be a deciding factor in winning or losing of a candidate.
According to a report published in April 2013 by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and the Mumbai-based Iris Knowledge Foundation, Face book users will “wield a tremendous influence” over the results of the polls in 160 social media sensitive constituencies of India’s 543 parliamentary constituencies.
The two popular social media platforms, Face book, with over 90 million users and twitter, a micro blogging site, has over 33 million users in India. With less than two day to go for General Elections 2014, one of the big question remains how much social media will influence the outcome of elections in India ?
Young & social media active voters in India
General elections in India are BIG but this time it is also YOUNG. According to Election Commission of India, the total electorate is approx. 814.5 million compared to 713 million in 2009. This marks an increase of more than 100 million electorate.
There has been a remarkable increase in the enrollment of electors in the age group of 18 to 19 years. Over 23 million electors are in this age group. Electors in the age group of 18 to 19 years now constitute 2.88% of total electors, against 0.75% in 2009.
So, there is major push from political parties to “Catch them Young” voters, and what better place than social media platforms. According to We are Social, over 213 million Indians are using the internet, 17 per cent of total population and approx 94 percent of these are on Face book, 78 per cent on Google plus, and 67 per cent on Twitter. The Mobile internet penetration has reached to 11 per cent. The young populace are spending over 2 hours and 26 minutes on an average on social media.
Political Parties Hitching to Social Media Bandwagon
The main two political parties- Bharitya Janta Party(BJP), the first mover on social media platform, & Congress have invested highly in social media promotions & outreach in a bid to capture the mind space of the voters. Also, Aam Aadmi Party with its unique social media strategy is making inroads to garner online attention. They are making the best use of social media platforms to woo urban & young voters active on social media platforms from innovative online promotion, to tweet chat, Google + hangouts, Facebook live, dedicated You Tube channels to WhatsApp, a mobile messenger service.
BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s (NaMo on social Media) takes the lead in social media popularity chart, followed by former union minister Shashi Tharoor, who was among the first to be active on social media platforms. Now, there is a mad rush among politicians to hitch the bandwagon of social media before it is too late. Even, veteran leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav of Samajwadi Party and Lalu Prasad Yadav of Rashtriya Janta Dal , who once detested “Computer” and “English Language” have bitten by the social media bug.
Today, young voters are social media active. They are voicing their opinion and canvassing for their popular leaders on social media platforms and influencing decisions within their contacts, household with a close reach to information on their laptops or on mobile handsets.
Election Comission of India Gearing Up For Social Media
Election Commission of India sensing the power & impact of social media has already issued strict guidelines for using social media platforms by political parties. This is for the first time, Election commission will keeping a close eye on the expenditure incurred on social media promotion.Mobile and internet technology is changing the face of election observation, too. ECI will also be live streaming the voting from selected polling stations in the country.
Social media in India is an evolving trend, and this general elections result might start a new discourse for elections to come. However, it will be interesting to wait and watch, whether the popular online sentiments, and the millions likes, thousands of share and million tweets can translates into REAL VOTES .
-Kumar Manish (@kumarmanish9)
** The article can be republished with due credit to its original author.