Rs 7 per tweet? AAP, Akalis, Cong trade charges of ‘paid’ Twitter trends
At the start of May, #DrugSupplierMajithia — reiterating charges of drug-trade by SAD leader and Punjab revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia — was a trend started by the AAP to hit back against #BhagwantMannDrugAddict, which cast aspersions at the AAP MP, that was trending that day. AAP’s social media in-charge at Delhi, Abhinav Bhudiraja, claims opposition Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal of engineering a “paid” trend.punjab Updated: May 11, 2016 22:45 IST
On April 23 when the Aam Aadmi Party launched its Bolda Punjab campaign, it ensured #Punjab dialogue was trending on Twitter. The same day, #PunjabDaCaptain was also among the top trends. During Congress’s Baisakhi rally at Talwandi Sabo, it was #CaptainDiLehar that was trending. Ahead of state polls, Punjab’s political parties are slugging it out on social media as charges of “paid” Twitter trends and Facebook likes flow thick and fast.
Though Twitter offers the option of promoted tweets and trends, they are labelled as such. So Punjab’s political parties are trading charges against one another of using services of IT companies to create “paid” trends.
On May 2, #DrugSupplierMajithia was started by the AAP to hit back against #BhagwantMannDrugAddict that was trending that day. AAP’s social media Delhi in-charge Abhinav Budhiraja accuses opposition Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal of engineering a “paid” trend.
“#BhagwantMannDrugAddict was started at 4 pm on May 2 and again at 7.45 pm. On our party’s twitter handle, we have uploaded the mail sent by a company on the timing and number of tweets per account holder and the payout of Rs 7 per tweet. The same person who tweeted against Mann was next day tweeting for a car brand. Punjab Dialogue was trending as people sitting inside were tweeting about it. We have a large number of volunteers and our trends are organic, not paid,” Budhiraja said. It also claims #AAPstabsPunjab that trended on April 25 after the Delhi government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court as a “paid” trend.
The SAD, on its part, accuses the AAP of paying for #DrugSupplierMajithia trend. The AAP had done so earlier too with #YoBadalSoMandela when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called CM Parkash Singh Badal as country’s Nelson Mandela for his many jail stints, says SAD social media in-charge Parminder Brar.
With poll strategist Prashant Kishor at the helm of affairs in Congress, the party is checkmating the AAP at its own game. On May 3, after AAP founding member Ilyas Azmi quit the party accusing party’s national convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal of “functioning like an autocrat”, #HitlerKejriwal was trending. The AAP leaders see a Congress hand in the “paid” trend. But the Congress, which had earlier proudly owned up its hand in #DrunkBhagwantMann trend, denies starting it.
How it works: ‘Tweets from multiple cities create a trend’
According to a Delhi-based IT professional who helps create Twitter trends, the payout is Rs 7 per tweet. “The company could ask for three to five tweets after a specified time on a day to create a trend. For something to trend nationally, the tweets should be from multiple cities. So these companies have Twitter account holders in different states and cities and may charge a political party or private company up to Rs 40 a tweet. Hundreds of tweets within a short span make it a national trend,” he said, adding companies also help out with sample tweets.
And it is not just for political punches that Twitter trends are created. On April 29, #SGPC4Sikhs was trending and #EkoNaaraKisanPiyara on April 24, both started by the SAD to show its pro-farmer and Panthic credentials.
High number of smartphones, social media users
According to a February 2016 report of the Telecom and Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), there are 3.1 crore mobile phone subscribers in Punjab for a population of nearly 3 crore (after extrapolating the 2011 census figure). Punjab’s tele-density is 105%, of which nearly 87% are active users. The brand-conscious Punjabis not only love to flaunt smartphones but also pictures and videos on social media. As per an estimate of telecom companies, nearly 60% users in Punjab have smartphones, 80-90 lakh use messaging service WhatsApp and nearly 46 lakh use Facebook.
Political parties are using Facebook to catch on the WhatsApp bandwagon. “We are reaching out to nearly 80% of 46 lakh Facebook users in Punjab. The content from Facebook is shared on WhatsApp,” Budhiraja adds. AAP leader Kumar Vishwas’s video on drug menace in Punjab has already clocked 2.4 lakh likes in the page of Kejriwal after it was uploaded on Tuesday.
The likes on pictures and videos Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh posted on his Facebook page during the US tour are not more than 7,500, while Sukhbir has clocked over 12,000 likes on some pictures of his China visit.