Even after the shift from campaign to governance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s growth on social media has shown hardly any sign of slowing down. According to data provided exclusively to The Indian Express by Facebook, Modi’s fan base grew at an average 28.4 per cent in the first 100 days of his government, after having grown at a slightly better 28.65 per cent during the campaign period.
Modi’s fan base had grown from 11 million on March 6, the day elections were announced, to 14 million when the campaign got over. With over 20 million followers, Modi is now the second most followed person of Facebook which has 1.32 billion monthly active users globally and 108 million in India. Only US president Barack Obama is ahead with 42 million followers. At the present pace, Modi look on the way to becoming the most followed leader in the world, given that India is adding Internet users briskly and Obama is in his last term.
A bulk of Modi’s followers are in the 18-34 age group, the first-time voters in the recent elections. Facebook says his engagement is most in Delhi, UP, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat. “While corruption was the primary poll plank for the BJP, it was not the number one issue on Facebook. The number one issue was jobs and that again maps on to the youth demographic. For them the economic agenda was more important,” says Ankhi Das, director (public policy), Facebook India and South Asia.
Since coming to power Modi has been connecting through the PMOIndia page too. Das says the PM has very distinct tones on the two pages, with his primary page still carrying a personal touch and the other being more institutional. His posts around foreign policy and defence seems to driving the most engagement along with the Independence Day speech outlining his government’s priorities. “If you see both pages, the most engaging posts have been in terms of the projection of India as a regional power. There is so much focus on foreign policy when it comes to the PMO page,” says Das. PMOIndia has 4.5 million followers.
Since coming to power, Modi has got a number of his cabinet colleagues as well as their ministries to open Facebook pages to keep connected with the people. Ministers Rajnath Singh, Smriti Irani, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj all have pages now with over a million followers. In fact, 332 of the 543 MPs now have a Facebook presence, the highest on any social media platform.
“Increasingly governments are realising that there is value in disintermediation. Own your voice, talk to people, build participation. You really don’t need a conduit or a mediator to translate your voice. The medium also talks back and that is the beauty of this platform,” says Das.