Social media is the big buzz word in the upcoming elections, and more so in metropolitan Delhi, where the newest entrant, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is riding an online wave.
AAP's CM candidate Arvind Kejriwal is far ahead of rivals when it comes to toting up the big numbers on social media. He has over 705,356 followers on Twitter, while BJP's Dr Harsh Vardhan is trailing far behind at 12,021. In stark contrast, Delhi's current CM Sheila Dikshit does not have a verified Twitter account.
Where the other big daddy of social media Facebook is concerned, Kejriwal's page has close to 775,820 F-likes, while Dr Harsh Vardhan trails at close to 12,000 likes. Sheila Dikshit's page makes a stronger showing with 105,573 F-likes and regular updates.
AAP's Kejriwal may be ahead of the social media game, but the BJP is no less aware of its importance in an urban-focused election. BJP’s IT cell head Arvind Gupta acknowledges that the impact of social media "will be quite high, given that 50 percent of the voting population is online." He however refused to comment on the fact that AAP’s Kejriwal had a better presence than BJP’s Dr Harsh Vardhan on social media. Firstpost was unable to get an on-the-record comment from the Congress Party at the time of publishing.
Arvind Gupta also says that where Dr Harsh Vardhan’s presence on social media is concerned, "Even though he was declared the candidate a few days ago, the response to him on social media has been good. In the coming days, we plan to hold online interactions and a lot of activities with him to generate a bigger buzz. We are planning Google Hangouts, Chat sessions, etc with him."
When asked if the BJP was targeting a particular group online, Gupta says, "Social media is the only media that is all inclusive. We're not targeting anyone in particular but yes it happens to be that the number of youth on social media is much higher. However our aim will be to include everyone online who is online."
But does winning the social media war translate into an AAP advantage on the ground? Or is it just PR hype that is likely to fizzle come Election Day?
"Nearly 70 lakh people from Delhi are on Facebook. Even if you go by a really conservative estimate, at least 30 lakh out of those are eligible to vote. It is a good platform to make people talk and think," says Ankit Lal, who works for AAP's social media team. “If we are holding an event, we try and publicise it as much as we can, on all social media platforms. Both before and after the event takes place."
Lal admits Twitter, in comparison, has a narrower reach. "Most of the people there are elite, but when they choose to talk about us on Twitter, it helps create a buzz. However that doesn’t mean we are overlooking the traditional methods of campaigning such as door-to-door, rallies etc."
Lal adds, "So many NRIs who have shown interest in wanting to support us. The only way to reach out to those people is via social media and we are doing that actively."
For AAP, social media isn't restricted to Facebook or Twitter. The party is also active on Google Plus, LinkedIn, and Quora.
"Google Plus was because people who were in the IT sector told us that Facebook is often blocked in office but Google Plus is not," says Lal, "LinkedIn has been a major source of getting donations as a lot of people from IT industry are there and they are keen to help us out. Quora has a lot of threads where people talk about our party and we try to keep these threads updated."
Social media has also helped AAP connect with users and implement innovative ideas thrown up by their supporters. "The idea for giving donation certificates to our contributors came from Facebook. As did the Metro wave idea where AAP members just go to the Connaught Place metro station and talk to people," says Nitin Singh, a fellow member of the social media team.
As the election approaches, the social media buzz is likely to gather momentum and heat, building up to a pre-election storm. Whether these Twitter storms and Facebook frenzies translate into votes will remain a mystery until 4 December. For now, Kejriwal can sit back and bask in the online like.
Updated Date: Nov 11, 2013 17:25 PM