As elections get close the action on social media is clearly picking up. Two very interesting campaigns on social media – mainly twitter – by the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi have come into the spotlight. In a bid to get more support Modi sent out Direct Messages or DMs to followers with an appeal to join his campaign. His tweeted “Share a Tweet with #Mission272 & receive a DM from me on how YOU can empower the campaign towards success of Mission272+”
This tweet got retweeted nearly 1400 and favourited over 500 times. Modi and his camp are trying to use the last few weeks to pump up the platforms that are able to connect with more people. Modi, whose own website is visited by thousands everyday, is now using the power of many and not focussing on the power of one. And so the link in the DM takes you to six options to engage you in whatever you can. Support Modi, or share your voting ID number so they can reach out to you, volunteer for the last leg of the elections, be a part of Chai pe Charcha which is backed by CAG or Citizens for Accountable Governance. These are a bunch of professionals from consulting firms and IIMs who have joined up to support and interpret policy for Modi. They had last year organised a seminar in Ahmedabad with Modi as the chief guest and several corporate honchos in their panel. The DM in its nature signals the countdown and tries to get his potential voters to join now if they haven’t already.
Another campaign by Modi’s people was done during the festival of Holi when the Gujarat CM’s followers received a personalised Holi message from him. Personalisation is the new idea to hit social media like Twitter for this appears to be a first move to use DMs. A glimpse of something like this was witnessed during the BCCI Campaign for Sachin Tendulkar where followers could get a signer poster by the cricket legend just by following the BCCI. However, the poster was not personalised to the follower.
It’s hard to say if candidates can tweet away to victory in the Indian context but for political campaigning in the online world, it’s become a quintessential political tool. Simple to read and understand, these posts that can be easily retweeted or shared. This new type of DM campaign marketing is quite different than flooding timelines, or using the parallel space of than creating television commercials. If one does believe trends on twitter are finding their way to national media and forcing bloggers to write about it then its also to do with the fact that politicians can create social media posts, get their followers to trend it quickly and easily; and also put out their reaction to news and reach out to voters. In the last leg of the election campaign twitter is becoming a rather useful tool for the audience that uses it.
As my book The Big Connect researches to conclude that social media is a social space, a place to engage and not to disseminate information alone. To borrow a famous quote,”Focus on how to be social and not how to do social.” Political activity across the medium is picking up with the countdown to the election right here. Parties are now in for the final lap and what matters is truly how they engage with their supporters. It’s that crucial time when fence sitters can be influenced.
What leaders cannot forget is that as communications landscape gets more complex, and more democratic, the networked population is getting many more opportunities to engage in public fora giving them an enhanced ability to undertake collective action and take decisions.
The Big Connect published by Random House can be purchased here
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