Social media is the modern tool of communication which is fast growing medium for connecting and influencing citizenry of new India. I believe that Social media is currently a second-fiddle but in near future it will play a dominant role. It has already got deep roots in political communications of developed countries like United States where it is has become a game changer for politicians, foundations, institutions, and political thinkers. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Blogging sites, WhatsApp, community sites like Quora, are a new way to communicate and engage voters. Now it is time for India where the users on social media are increasing and internet connections are growing and social media is penetrating deeply in every class and demographics of population.
As of now there are around 240 million Facebook accounts in India where around 66% users are between 18 to 35 years age group, male users are 76% and female users 24%, if it grows with the same pace we can look forward for around 300 million Facebook accounts by 2019. Twitter is one of the most important micro-blogging platforms and is popular among educated class of India. Number of active twitter users in India are 26.7 million which looks slim in number but it is a platform which acts as connecting and communicating platform of cream layer of population which includes, Students, Journalists, teachers, scientists, businessmen, bureaucrats, politicians and similar other profiles. This is the population which falls under the category of social influences and that is the reason why twitter plays an important role in creating buzz of any brand, individual, services and political communications.
Another most important electronic tool is WhatsApp and by the end of February 2017 there were 200 million whats app users In India. Nearly every smart phone that is sold in India has whats app, but this media of communication is commonly debated and is not classified under a social Media platform. It is commonly considered as a push messaging application rather than a social media platform because of the limitation where one can communicate with people whose numbers are saved in users phone book and also that It cannot be accessed easily on PC. Social media has been broadly defined to refer to electronic tools that enable anyone to publish and access information, collaborate on a common effort, or build relationships. It’s true that there are some limitations with what’s app but group making and broadcast facilities may have many members who can read and forward messages to other groups and communicate with group members who may be unknown, this way it engages and enhances social networking of users. This debate may continue but most important is the utility of an electronic medium, more than nomenclature and classification.
As per the report of “Statista” 14.64% of Indian population has access to social media networks and by the end of 2019 around 18.86% of Indian population will have access to social media platforms, which means that out of 1316 million population of India, 193 million population are active on social media. As per “Michael Bauer Research” there are 4.9 people per household in India which means there are 268 million families in India if we consider that a considerable percentage of families in India will be having more than one member of the family having access to social media still this data suggests that nearly every second family in India has access to Social media. We should not forget that word-of-mouth communication plays a major role in India, so the communication received by social media is discussed and the same spreads out to people who have or do not have access to social media. Considering this fact we can say that nearly every individual is getting communications from social media, directly or indirectly.
When social media is such widely used medium of communication then obviously political world cannot afford to remain away from the same. Facebook is the most popular social media platform having capability of interaction with masses. The Facebook page with highest number of fan following in India is “Narendra Modi” having 43,055,603 likes and 42,571,483 followers and one out of top five fastest growing page is “Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)” “liked by 13,726,042 accounts and followed by 13,592,426 accounts. Facebook Page “Amit Sah” is on 69 th position with 10,638,592 followers and “I Support Narendra Modi” stands at 38th position with 14 647 635 followers, no other political party page is there in top 100 ,the oldest political party Indian national congress stands nowhere in this list.
Looking at the position of top twitter accounts we find that the most followed handle on twitter is no other then Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) followed by 36.3Million people, top five twitter handles include @PMOIndia followed by 22.2million accounts, Arvind kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal.) here makes position in top 20 list with 21.8K followers. Other popular political accounts on twitter include Kiran bedi Kiran Bedi (@thekiranbedi), Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley), Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj), Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh), Amit Shah (@AmitShah), BJP (@BJP4India), Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) in top 50 list Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) ranks 64 in the list of top 100 accounts of India. Surprisingly there is no single INC account in top 50 list.
Rahul Gandhi’s the 47 years old so called youth face of congress has started gaining followers in his account “Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG)” but still stands low in the list of most followed twitter accounts in India. This account of Rahul Gandhi is full of controversies where there are allegations that he is trying to prove his popularity by getting followed by fake twitter accounts commonly termed as “bots” from social media companies located outside India. These fake accounts not only follow but can also be programmed to re-tweet and like the tweets of specified handle, keyword or Tags. But will this artificial and purchased popularity will do any good to anyone it is a big question mark.
As statistics can only be driven out of numbers so we have taken number of followers as base of social media performance to bring out a statistical picture of political social media accounts, but followers are not everything, it is that quality, content, engagement and strategy that matters. There are many political leaders from maby political parties who are having good number of followers in their social media accounts but their engagement and content quality is not up to the mark. When we talk about strategy in involves complete strategy to circulate content so that it reaches maximum viewers and also gets optimized over certain keywords on search engine. In this aspect also I found that BJP doing much better than any other political party in India. There are three reasons behind the better performance one is our honourable Prime minister Narendra Modi who rules the hearts of common citizenry so there is a natural attraction of people of India towards BJP which is reflected on social media also. second reason is the best National IT cell headed by Amit Malviya the face behind BJP IT management. BJP IT centrally is an example of how best the social media can be managed, well planned content management system, Best Website, proper utilization of all platforms, timely placement and circulation of videos, thousands of viral graphics everything they have done is best in Indian political system. They just need to replicate the same in states and it will become one of the most powerful and prudent communication system for BJP.
Third asset of BJP is the strong and dedicated followers and volunteers who are not only viewers but they are themselves circulating content, producing innovative social media content. Congress, AAP and other regional political parties are also trying to make their place in social media but they lack in leadership and are confused as far as long term strategy is concerned. The latest example is a tweet of Rahul Gandhi about his pet dog which became viral and populated him as a stooge. This is a clear example of lack of leadership and social media strategy among political parties. If some politician is trying to say that his dog tweets for him, he is not only making a joke of himself but also insulting those people who show interest in his content specially his followers. The social media should be taken seriously, every word written is going too the public, it is like a live stage always open for contributors. One cannot afford to dabble around with social media, it is a serious business and should be taken seriously and handled with utmost care.
In India political social media management will grow innovative and wide within a short span of time, and days are not far when social media response and engagement will decide the future of any political party. Any political party or person who tries to stay away from social media or considers it dinkier will soon find it difficult to survive in changing environment of Indian politics.