The Congress wants to tweak its social media strategy after an internal analysis revealed that it was not doing enough to tap neutral voters, especially on WhatsApp, an area where the BJP is faring well with its virtual storm-troopers.
The party has over 8,600 WhatsApp groups - approximately 40 in each of the 224 Assembly constituencies. Plus, the party is doubling down at the booth-level where it wants to appoint ‘social media warriors’ in each of the 56,696 polling booths.
The problem, however, is that the party’s content being pushed into its network is not reaching the neutrals on apolitical WhatsApp groups. “Messages were getting ping-ponged. Our content would rebound from an echo chamber comprising Congress supporters. Ideally, the rebound should happen from neutrals, which isn’t happening. We are now working around this,” Karnataka Congress’ social media coordinator Kashyap Nandan said.
The party has also learnt that factually incorrect, or fake, messages about Prime Minister Narendra Modi got better traction and was circulated in larger numbers compared with genuine messages about Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
According to Bhushan Nag, another Karnataka Congress social media coordinator, the party is now putting in place a structure for its social media operations that did not exist hitherto.
“The social media warriors we plan to rope in at the booth-levels will create their own groups comprising neutrals based on professions - one group for engineers, one for doctors, etc,” he said.
“This will be monitored by a structure that includes two social media coordinators in each of the four revenue divisions, one for each district, one for every Assembly constituency and a 16-member state committee,” he added.
The BJP in Karnataka has claimed a WhatsApp network comprising about 15,000 groups. “We expect the number to go up to 23,000-25,000 groups. We also have groups formed by BJP supporters where the party isn’t involved,” BJP Karnataka social media cell convenor Balaji Srinivas said.
For the Congress, Karnataka is proving to be one of the top-performing states in terms of its reach on Facebook and Twitter. “The BJP clocks higher numbers because it uses bots. We rely on volunteer-driven outreach,” Nag said.
Srinivas, however, contested this. “Our bots are our karyakartas. For any social media operation to click, content is key. If the Congress isn’t able to reach higher numbers, it means their content isn’t great,” he said.