– by ORKASH Labs, Copyright: ORKASH Services Pvt Ltd
There seems to be a quiet but tectonic shift happening in how future election campaigns would be conducted in India. Social media is at the centre of this shift, just as the TV and its local language news channels have emerged as the change catalyst for what issues gather the political storm for the masses in state after state, week after week.
Political parties are beginning to realize the influence of the social media; the recent Gujarat elections saw major use of facebook, twitter and You Tube. Using this medium to understand the issues that influence voters is increasingly significant for the politicians. A recent report published by IRIS and IAMAI highlights the social media trends which are truly unprecedented in political contests. Facebook, Twitter, Google + and You Tube seem to be the frontrunners in this battle. There are some compelling statistics and trends that indicate this. Read on…
With a three or four way vote split in most constituencies, between the two national and at least two regional parties, the victory margins will continue to remain narrow. Mini-swings in vote banks of 3 to 4 % incresgingly decide the winner, and this is where the influence of social media, particularly in urban constituencies where the penetration of social media and Internet is higher, becomes a very significant factor. Reports indicate that 160 out of 543 seats of the Lok Sabha in 2014 general elections will be heavily influenced by social media. These are constituencies where 10% of the voting population uses Facebook, or where the number of Facebook users is higher than the winning candidate’s margin of victory at the last election.
Though Internet penetration in India continues to remain low, it is estimated that out of a population of 1.2 billion, around 150 million people in India are online active users of the various social media and email platforms (71 million Facebook users and 20 million Twitter account holders). Each of these acts as a socio-political influencer on three to five adults on an average. This makes the size of the social media influence networks to be a minimum of 300 million voters, not a small number at all. Add this figure to the other 25 million NRIs (with voting rights, which don’t get exercised) who remain connected to India mainly through the social media, and exercise major influence in the voting patterns of their relatives and families back in India. Well, the arguments keeps getting stronger, just as the users of social media are rapidly increasing! What also sets us apart is that the average ‘Argumentative’ Indian (in the words of the Nobel Prize winning Indian economist Amartya Sen) social media user is a prolific commentator on political matters.
The Indian electorate has never been younger. Between 2004 and 2009, the voting population increased from 670 million to 720 million. The number is expected to further increase to 800 million by the time the country goes to the polls. In such a case, a greater number of voters will be of 25 years or younger. This age profile of new voters coincides with those among the population who tend to ‘live and breathe’ social media, accessing it almost every hour of their day, 7 days a week.
With the increase of political campaigns and processes being conducted through SMS campaigns and audio/video campaign through mobiles telephones, it is clear that technology is enabling an unprecedented empowerment and engagement of the ‘aam aadmi’ for expressing political opinions.
It is well known that both the colossal protests of 2012 (Anti corruption movement by Anna Hazare and outrage following Nirbhaya gang rape case) were channelized through the social media. It is recollected that government machinery in India had come to a standstill and the events garnered immense national and global headlines, and got the common man involved. Such events prognosticate the emergence of what we call the C–governance or citizen led governance in India. Not just the political parties, even the government is beginning to experience the impact of social media.
The accompanying screen shots shows the output of ORKASH’s social media intelligence and network analytics platform, for the impact of the Telangana movement, which has the potential to snowball onto a political crisis in Andhra Pradesh. It reveals the linkages of Telangana as a topic on social media with political organizations and figures. In a social media visualization format, the pie chart elucidates the user analysis with reflection of top social media influencers on the issue. In fact, these screen shots only ‘scratch the surface’ of the kind of analysis a social media intelligence platform can do.
In a nutshell, Social media revolution in the Indian political space is real, tangible and accelerating. More in the next post on this blog.