Blame-games, mud slinging and digging into each other’s hideous records; these are some of the common features of politics that we get to see each day. However, social media and politics combined together has affected the election scenario in the recent times and has brought with itself a radical idea of using the digital platform which was previously untapped.
Social media is one of the most highly accessed platforms of digital media. With billions of people using social media for various purposes, reaching out to the audience has become rather simple. The high potential of social media has attracted people from all walks of life to use it for their gain. Social media and politics has created an aggressive platform both for politically and anti-politically. Thus with the changing election scenario, digital marketing, especially social media has an important role to play in politics today.
According to statistics based on social media and politics, collected by Smart Insights, there are around 2.3 billion active social media users globally as of January 2016. This number is on the rise with the increasing use of mobile devices and improving internet connectivity. The combined use of social media and politics by the political figures provides a quick and easy access to a majority of the populace.
With every election held each year in different parts of the world, political parties too have restored to campaigning for their candidates through these social media platforms. US President Barack Obama is an avid user of Twitter with 72.3 million followers in tow. Though his Twitter profile is handled by his action staff, often tweets are made by the President himself which carries his signature. Active since 2007, there has been over 14,000 tweets made by him and his staffs.
Modi goes social!
Closer home, the 2014 Union elections saw BJP candidate Narendra Modi, actively and aggressively using Twitter and Facebook to campaign for himself and his political party. As social media and politics go hand-in-hand, 19.1 million followers accumulate on the PM’s Twitter profile and over 33 million on his Facebook page. Modi has been one of the first prime ministerial candidates who used social media optimally to maximize his exposure to the highest number of people throughout the country. With regular tweets about his workings and doings, he has been able to connect to the youths seamlessly through Twitter and Facebook.
To better connect to the increasingly social media savvy audience, Modi also introduced multiple social media pages and websites where, people could register and put forward their say. Websites like India272.com and namonumber.com were launched to keep audience updated about the various rallies and their venues. The instant messaging platform, Whatsapp, was also used to keep people updated about the various activities that Modi undertook during his election campaign.
The instant access to millions of people have been beneficial to the politicians who regularly post updates, tweets and images of their activity on their social media profile pages. Hence the confluence of social media and politics has proved advantageous for the politicians and common people alike.
Mamata Banerjee on Facebook!
With the State Assembly elections knocking on the doors of Bengal, the state politicians have taken up an active interest in social media. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, an active Facebook user has over 1 million Facebook followers. Her Facebook page promotes her effort in bringing peace to the areas of Jungle Mahal, and how people of the backward districts of Bengal has been benefited from her striving efforts. The combination of social media and politics has helped the political party reach out to the commoners on a huge scale, be it for good or bad. The Chief Minister has also launched the latest election manifesto in their official website with a link on her Facebook page.
Keeping aside the debate of whether Mamata Banerjee has done justice to her position, she has tapped the full potential of the social media and politics. While various parties are undergoing election campaigns and update regular posts and images, the number of followers of the social pages has remained quite low. This clearly indicates the fact that social media has taken up a powerful place in the changing election scenario.
But, while politicians use social media and politics in combination to promote themselves and their campaigns, people too have started voicing out their opinions on the various social media sites. Social media is now also actively being used to voice out grievances, criticisms and opinions. This may provide a platform to make people aware of all the good, bad and ugly of the state and not just paint a rosy picture of the development and urbanization.
The arrests of several people over the past few years for voicing out opinions show that social media can play a big part in the changing political scenario. While it can be immensely beneficial for election campaigns, it might not be a very good platform to voice out ones opinions.