From Facebook pages and Twitter handles to Google+ Hangouts, political parties are using social media to reach out to voters. HT speaks to members of online teams and social media marketing agencies to understand how political parties intend to grab our eyeballs in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections
Party profile | The number game
While a team of 15 members scattered across the world decides the party’s day-to-day online strategy, a 2,000-strong cadre identified by the party engages in conversations related to the AAP at any given time. The constant challenge for the team is to maintain coherence between the real and the virtual world. On Facebook, the party has a two-tier structure — national and state. The team plans to add the district layer. On AAP’s state Facebook pages, all updates are in both English and state language. With more than 284,000 likes, AAP’s Kerala page is the most popular state page. -- Danish Raza‘BJP strategising for years’
“The Digital Centre is divided into several teams that manage aspects such as social media, creative content, donations and distribution,” says Basant, an alumnus of IIM, who handles the donations team at the Centre. While the team at Ashoka Road looks after the party’s official website, Facebook page and Twitter handle, individual party leaders have their own teams to handle their social media activities.
Then, there are blog sites such as Niti Central, whose editorial director is former journalist Kanchan Gupta. Strategies across platforms vary: while Facebook is more about communicating with a smaller group, Twitter messages are public, says Basant. Namita Kohli
Congress’ official twitter handle @INCIndia, has 144,000 followers as against AAP’s 574,000 and BJP’s 402,000. A team of around 1,000 volunteers monitors the conversations on the issues that Rahul Gandhi touches upon in his election rallies and press briefings. “The traction is really good when he takes on Narendra Modi,” he says.
After its launch in September last year, the party’s Facebook page was initially on auto-pilot mode, he says. “We were pasting news clippings and important announcements.” Now, the team is regularly told about the issues that it should play up. Rahul Gandhi’s views on the Supreme Court acquitting the assassins of his father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, his favouring the one-rank-one-pension policy, were both pushed aggressively on social media by the team. One of the deliberate decisions is to highlight how the UPA’s policies have benefited specific groups such as the poor and senior citizens. “One of the challenges is to develop a system to counter the online opposition immediately,” he says. -- Danish Raza
TMC believes in a 360 degree communication process that runs on 12 different axes, such as wall paintings, small roadside meetings, processions and such. Social media is only a part of that.” O’Brien, who has been very active on Twitter for a long time says the party does not have a Twitter army or a Facebook army. “We just have people passionate about Trinamool writing about it. Apart from an official Facebook page and party handle on Twitter, we also have a very proactive party website. A team of ten people, headed by me, handles the party’s virtual work,” he reveals. The high point of the party’s online communication was when a cabinet reshuffle was once announced on the website. -- Poulomi Banerjee