'Social media is a game changer'

Interview

Arvind Gupta, Convenor of BJP IT Cell, spoke to Shemin Joy of Deccan Herald about his party’s online presence and strategy:

On social media’s role in the 2014 elections compared to earlier polls
In 2009, we had an Internet reach of two crore Indians and it has now grown 10 times. There was nothing called social media earlier, it came during the 2009 elections. We have 81 crore voters now, 20 crore or 24 per cent are on the Internet. They are concentrated in a certain basket and they spend a lot of time on Internet. So it is a game changer.

On BJP strategy for social media campaigning and countering opponent’s attack
For us, it is not just a campaign tool but an engagement channel. It is more of information, listening and engagement channel. It sets the agenda, the discussion topic and it is the voice of every Indian. We counter bad information. We have live content on our platforms. I do not see this in other parties.

On allegations of debate manipulations, trolls

This is a myth the losers create. I believe 95 per cent of the entire thing is done by the right people. 

On  opponent’s online presence and strategy

It is for you to say. I feel we are far ahead. Narendra Modi is the most searched, most followed person. BJP is the most active party on the social media. 

On impact of social media in constituencies

It will have an impact in 160 seats. In my opinion, India will have three types of elections. One is the digital election in 160 seats where social media has a big role. Around 180-200 seats will witness the typical elections and remaining will have a mix of both social media and traditional style.For us, social media is not just Internet. We are using mobiles very effectively. Our supporters can now listen to Modi’s speech through their mobiles. 


‘Rahul’s message through ground connect’


The Congress party’s views in the social media is presented by Priyanka Chaturvedi, a member of the AICC’s Communication Department. She spoke to Sagar Kulkarni of Deccan Herald : 

There is an impression gaining ground that social media debates are manufactured and are no longer spontaneous. That it is driven by a set of people in a coordinated manner.

Most social media debates between individuals are definitely spontaneous especially when sharing news stories or offering their opinion but yes, there is a large chunk which try to 
set their agenda like the right wing has been doing as a co-ordinated effort for years. But little do they realise that people can see through the sham.

Is the anti-Congress propaganda reason behind the party making late entry into this medium?

Congress was never forced to take to any other media because others were setting the trend. Our agenda is very clear -- counter the negative propaganda of our political opponents, inform and convince the undecided voter to support the Congress. The party has reached out to hitherto unexplored constituencies through blogs, You Tube videos, Facebook updates or Tweets. 
 
Is there any estimate on the number of Lok Sabha seats where social media could make a difference? 

Even hazarding a guess like that would be insulting the intelligence of our voter. All forms of communication – print, broadcast and social media will help the voter make a decision. What unfortunately social media does is reduce the debate and at times end up confusing the voter. Results will not be decided by the social media but despite the social media.
 
Is Rahul Gandhi’s absence on the social media a handicap for the Congress? Narendra Modi uses this medium effectively.

Rahul Gandhi’s message does not necessarily come via social media but through his ground connect with the people across the nation. The BJP PM candidate’s Twitter account never interacts or engages with anyone. It is more as broadcast service totally defeating the purpose of the medium.

‘We raise funds through social media too’

The Aam Aadmi Party’s IT head Ankit Lal spoke to Pratik Kumar of Deccan Herald on AAP’s social media campaign. He pointed out that it would have a huge pay-off in the upcoming general election:

Your party from the beginning made full use of the edge social media provided. What is the story behind it?

AAP has only five full-time volunteers who take care of AAP’s social media channels. But hundreds of volunteers, sitting in different parts of the world, chip in from time to time and assist the party in managing social media channels, making videos, creating apps and other software. Their ‘spontaneous approach’ helps us come up with new ideas. We work like volunteers. We are not paid professionals.

AAP’s support base since the Delhi Assembly election has increased nearly two-fold. The party is getting more than 4,500 new likes on Facebook daily. Each day we get 2,000 new subscribers on Twitter. We hope to attract newer masses for the Lok Sabha polls as social media helps the party go local. It helps us identify and address the local issues. Our intention is to have dialogue with the people. Various party chapters now have separate Facebook pages and Twitter handles.

AAP has taken to innovative methods to seek donations. Has social media played a role in raising funds?

Social media has played a big role in raising funds for our Lok Sabha campaign through micro-donations. AAP has also innovatively used social media tools like Twitter hashtag and Google Hangout to raise funds. We recently started an app on Facebook wherein donors need not go to the party’s website. They can write posts, chat and donate, all on a single platform. 
What is the social media strategy for LS polls? We don’t believe in strategies. 

Related:

Ballot war in cyber space

Fast-growing medium & politicos response

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