Would Social Media play an important role in the 2019 General Elections?
The answer to this is – more than ever!
The year 2019 is a completely different animal in comparison to 2014. Social media has exploded since that time in India, spreading its roots through to rural India. It is not just benefiting the businesses, but has also proved to be a great platform for persuading and changing the mindset of a wider population. Let’s go through certain points where we try to explain why the 2019 elections would be won and lost online.
Increase in the number of mobile phones
Currently, India has about 1.2 Billion mobile phones, up from approximately 581 million in 2014. At this pace, we would have more mobile phones that the population of India by the time the elections begin.
Data becoming cheap
With the entry of players like JIO, data has become extremely cheap. For less than Rs. 10/- you have 2 GB of data every day.
Penetration into Rural India
As a result of this mobile revolution, mobile phones and cheap data have reached rural India as well. With a density of about 94/100 users of a phone, it is quite evident that almost everyone has a mobile phone available to them.
The growth of Social Media
Though the internet was marketed as a way to share ideas and knowledge, it turned out to be used primarily for the internet. Social media including WhatsApp has grown by 100% in rural India.
Now that we are clear that social media via mobile has penetrated all parts of India, we cover why it will be leveraged to most by political parties for their advantage.
This is the biggest issue plaguing the Social Media giants. India off late has turned into a mobocracy where mobs end up destroying lives based on messages (most of the time fake), on social media. WhatsApp has appointed a “Chief Grievance Officer for India in the US”. It is very easy to spread hatred, and such campaigns have been going on behind the scenes, silently for quite some time. It is very easy to spread hate, especially when it can be done anonymously. Yes, there are features like marking a message “forwarded” by WhatsApp, but that is not foolproof. Also, no one has been sent to jail for sending such kind of a message yet!
A lie repeated many times becomes the truth
A tried and tested technique used by politicians, investigators, and psychologists.
90% of Smartphone users have WhatsApp
Propagation of information becomes way easier and cheaper than before. With multiple languages supported by these companies, language barriers do not exist anymore.
The older one becomes, the tougher it is to change one’s allegiance towards a political party. The youth usually switches their stance based on the information that is received. The highest growth in social media consumption has been in this category. Hence the political parties use this demographic to their advantage.
It is very easy to target this segment and brainwash accordingly which again is present on these platforms and wastes the maximum amount of time online.
Expensive IT cells
Yes, these political parties have heavy budgets for their IT cells, which work in areas such as data crunching, online reputation management for political parties as well as online reputation management for individual politicians are taken care of via platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp etc.
Will the traditional model of putting up hoardings and shouting slogans still exist?
Yes, that model will never die, as people like to see and hear their leader in person. The online campaigns will amplify their efforts, make their achievements look bigger and shortcomings smaller.
As India is also gradually becoming digital, social media is also becoming one of the powerful tools to reach millions of people with just one click. That is why it is playing an important role and have a huge impact on Indian elections as well. Therefore, in the coming elections, social media will be leveraged to most by political parties with the help of a team of social media experts for their advantage.