As politicians try to get more ‘social’ through various online networking platforms this poll season, Facebook likes are a rage, Twitter is trending in a big way, but WhatsApp still seems alien for most big leaders.
In a first major disclosure of their presence on various social media platforms, a large number of candidates in fray for Lok Sabha elections 2014 have listed their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts in their poll affidavits.
However, one of the most famous mobile internet messaging platforms, WhatsApp, finds a mention in the affidavits of only a few and these include Congress leader and former Union Minister Ajay Maken, fighting elections from New Delhi seat.
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At the same time, there are also some leaders, including two young turks of ruling Congress party, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot, who have not disclosed any social media accounts, including the most popular Twitter and Facebook.
Various political parties and their leaders have been thronging social networking platforms to woo voters, while internet giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter are looking for their slice of an estimated Rs 500-crore digital spending pie for this Lok Sabha polls.
Leaders from Narendra Modi to Arvind Kejriwal have been asserting their presence on social media platforms in a big way, but a few others like Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are not there. Senior BJP leaders like LK Advani and Arun Jaitley have also been writing frequent blog posts.
While some of these leaders are yet to file their election affidavits, many of those having filed their nominations have
disclosed their social media accounts.
An analysis of these affidavits shows that most of the candidates, cutting across parties and age groups, have presence on multiple social media platforms.
From the Congress stable, Law Minister Kapil Sibal seems to be leading the way when it comes to social media presence.
Besides his own website, the renowned lawyer has accounts in Twitter, Facebook, GooglePlus, YouTube and Instagram.
Congress leader and former Union Minister Ajay Maken is among the candidates who have an account of WhatsApp — the popular free mobile messaging platform — besides presence on Facebook. His opponent and BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi has Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Another visible Congress face in social media is Shashi Tharoor, who is active in Twitter and also has a personal website.
Ghaziabad candidate Shazia Ilmi Malik from AAP, the new party whose members have been very active on social media, has Twitter, Facebook as well as YouTube accounts.
BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Modi and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal are among the high profile contestants who mostly express their views through social media, primarily Twitter.
Both of them, pitted against each other in Varanasi, are yet to file their nomination papers.
Despite all the hype surrounding social media campaigns, the Gandhi family still seems to be staying away from such platforms. Neither Congress President Sonia Gandhi nor her son and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi have any Twitter or
Facebook accounts. Same is the case with Priyanka Gandhi.
Social media presence is expected to be a key platform for reaching out to the electorate, especially with many a youngster getting ready to exercise their franchise. Going by estimates, nearly 150 million people in the age group of 18-24 years are anticipated to vote in the upcoming polls.
Out of the 814 million Indians eligible to vote in this elections, more than 200 million are estimated to have access
to the internet, including over 100 million active on various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
According to digital media experts, a bulk of about 100 million first-time voters joining the electorate for upcoming Lok Sabha elections are very active on social networking sites and they are the main target of parties taking the social media route for promotions.
Estimates suggest that out of nearly Rs 4,000-5,000 crore total advertisement and publicity budget across the parties, digital platforms may get at least Rs 400-500 crore in the run up to the polls.
The social media network is also being used by parties looking to sign up volunteers and increasing party membership.
Brand campaigns built around the senior leadership of the parties are a big hit, say campaign managers.
Leading parties are also promoting and posting videos of their key rallies, speeches and events like Google+ Hangout.
Parties are also using YouTube to distribute videos which which are targeted towards rival parties with some of them
having already gone viral.
Modi is among India’s most famous social media celebrities with 11 million Facebook ‘likes’ and over 3 million Twitter followers.
While many big Congress leaders are absent on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, there are people like Shashi Tharoor (with more than 2 million Twitter followers) and Kapil Sibal, Ajay Maken and others to fill the void.
AAP’s Kejriwal also has also over 1.6 million Twitter followers.