Social Media can surely mar if not make political fortunes this election year.
Social media is about interactions and this is where it gets tough. Most political parties are clueless about what interaction on social media means. The few which do have some sense, keep their interactions limited to re-tweeting or sharing what they like and trolling or abusing what they dislike. Debate, discussions, deliberations, and dialogues just don’t exist. Social media is all about exchange of ideas. It is an open platform which can be used to collectively build ideological grounds for mutual understanding. Unfortunately, years of authoritarian, hierarchical structures in political parties have killed the urge to generate new ideas and ideals, to set common ideological grounds, and to work towards mutual concurrence, leave alone mutual understanding. Social media is about seamlessly bonding individuals into inclusive communities where their interactions nurture positive transition at every stage. None of this seems to be happening in the Indian political scenario. Where there should be bonhomie there is distrust; where there should be a participatory approach, there are shouting matches; where there should be creation of inclusive communities there are deliberate attempts at enforcing unchallengeable lines of thought, with no window for flexibility, compassion, or camaraderie.
This unfortunate culture extends to the social media strategy of Indian political parties as well; it works across all the parties and more so with the BJP which has publicly and wholeheartedly embraced social media as a go-to option for them. To put it charitably, BJP is doing more harm than good with its social media initiative. The party’s campaign can be likened to 100 solo acts being played simultaneously on a single stage at the same time. There is no symphony and no synchronization – a modern day rendition of “apni apni dhapli apna apna raag.” The first challenge for BJP as I see it, is the lack of a cohesive thought behind the official twitter accounts of the BJP leaders – most accounts are run independent of any emotive thought process; the contribution of the leader resonates in a mechanical baritone. Sample this from @narendramodi – “Saw immense enthusiasm at Sabarmati Marathon. Thousands of people joined the run http://nm4.in/1ctz41n” The tweet has been worded to project Modi Ji as an emotionless, automaton. Instead of this, had he tweeted “In the midst of thousands of marathoners – inke utsah ki kaya baat hai, enjoying thoroughly”, Modi ji would have succeeded in capturing the attentions of thousands of Twitter users. Social Media is about connecting with the readers/followers/fans, and a tweet posted in an apathethic, clinical tone doesn’t make for an emotional connect. Here is another from Modi ji “Sharing the latest newsletter comprising of an assortment of my Blog posts in 2013 http://nm4.in/1bwLp1a” Hello! Now try replacing this with “In 2013, I wrote a few posts on my blog, some stood out & made a difference – http://nm4.in/1bwLp1a, your opinion matters.”
The same lack of emotion and connect reflects in BJP’s Facebook strategy. Sample this “BJP is a major political party in India, founded in 1980. The party is associated with ideology of Nation First and advocates conservative social policies,self reliance, free markets, foreign policy driven by a nationalist agenda and strong defence.” This sounds like someone was asked to write an executive summary for a political science whitepaper. The message has to work together with the emotions it wants to evoke; let us now replace that school essay with something like this – “BJP needs you to usher in an era of decisive, participative nation building. Join us to make our nation corruption free, a safe haven for our women and a global economic powerhouse focused on prosperity for those below minimum living standards.”
The biggest challenge to BJP’s campaign comes from thousands of fake accounts created to protect @narendramodi & @BJP4India accounts. These accounts have extremely low organic reach, have very few followers and their sole purpose is to pounce upon and neutralize any and all rational or opposing voices. The collateral damage caused by these accounts to BJP’s reputation and brand is immense. The message which these “followers”, “fans” and “team BJP” convey is “fall into line” or we will abuse you and shame you. They don’t realize that every attempt at this makes them lose more supporters and hardens the stance of those opposing them. BJP’s campaign looks like it is run by white-collar arrogant, irrational, paid novices.
BJP can mend the damages caused, it is possible. It needs a practical approach aimed at winning over rivals and cementing friendships. And that is certainly not asking for too much. Jai Hind!
Misuse of Social Media in India
Article 66A of IT Act and Social Media Censorship in India
Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media
Impact of Social Media in India
How Fake Accounts can impact Facebook?
How the traditional and digital media growing in India?