Is Facebook now large enough to be considered a votebank in India?

Will an estimated 80 million on social media (Facebook and Twitter) by end 2013 force political parties to take the social media constituency more seriously? If the battle of the hashtags were any indication, it certainly looks like the Congress and the BJP are indeed seeking professional help and believe that they need to influence the momentum on social media.

NDTV's Truth vs Hype had an interesting discussion yesterday, where Mahesh Murthy pointed out that the participation on social media is across 'corridors' that bind key cities in the country - not just in the metros.

 Is Facebook now large enough to be considered a votebank in India?

Can social media really influence the 2014 elections? Getty Images

Earlier this week our Senior Editor, Venky Vembu, had assessed a recent study by IRIS on how social media platforms like Facebook can influence elections in India as somewhat audacious. The study claims that Facebook users in India today have the capacity to determine the results in upto 160 Lok Sabha constituencies – and thereby decisively impact the outcome of the 2014 elections. And that Facebook users may be the “new votebank” that Indian politicians need to worry about. (Full report of the study here.)

The study, conducted by IRIS Knowledge Foundation (more on them here) and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (more on them here), suggests that social media usage in India “is now sufficiently widespread to have the power to influence the outcome of the next elections to the Lok Sabha and, consequently, government formation.” More than any other social media platform, it claims, Facebook has emerged as the “gorilla in the social media space”. The study, therefore, holds serious implications – all of it positive – for Indian democracy for the way it empowers citizens, and politicians would be better served by having a well-thought-out social media strategy, it adds.

If that sounds like a bit of a tall claim in a digitally divided India, it’s probably because it is. That Facebook users are somehow political, when most of them largely share Farmville scores or photos, we found an improbably stretch. IRIS' Swaminathan argues in this NDTV show that given that they are young, 'they could be first-time voters', though he does admit that he doesn't think they will vote as a group.

Murthy of Pinstorm however makes the argument, that 'remark-worthy' tweets that are a regular strategy for corporate clients can be used for politicians and political parties as well. Dilip Cherien of Perfect Relations brought in the angle that media spends arounds politics are going to trend more towards social media. The report however also spells out the future of fairly pedestrian and largely abusive social interactions that are in store for us, barring the Aam Aadmi Party that seems to have a more granular understanding and approach to the space.

This NDTV report is certainly worth a watch.

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Updated Date: Apr 14, 2013 11:56:12 IST

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