Two decades ago, listening to words like—political campaigns—mind would visualize flaring banners, billboards, posters, newspaper advertisements, radio singing rhymes. These channel of information used to play an important role in election campaigns too. But, it’s a changed time now; with passing time and new evolving gadgets, social media including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp etc. have become the main players.
Today, absence from social media makes one invisible.
If we talk precisely about elections and political campaigns, a lot has changed. For instance, if you are planning a political rally, you can promote that event in advance, even start a countdown for it. You can reach more people on Facebook as compared to a door-to-door survey or a manual questionnaire. Candidates and their supporters constantly post their views on Facebook and Twitter—paid and unpaid.
From official pages of candidates to major ones managed by IT cells, the content to back the campaign runs high. The idea of social media has transformed politics—news travels at speed of light, poll results are predicted at every corner and campaigns run simultaneously. But, all of these things traveled a long way—from the pre-internet period, waiting for the next newspaper or swiping through television news show to get the latest information; many things changed.
Facebook, Twitter, and the pile of opinions shared by your friends or colleagues whenever you log on brings news on your fingertips. In the season ripping elections, the visibility of campaigning by party becomes important.
As basic as Facebook polls play an important role in elections. Even if they are not accurate, they are a must. Voters get a better idea to analyze their candidates online. A lot of pressure is also felt by candidates in order to pull ahead of their opponents.
One of the benefits that social media has on politics is the chance for voters to interact more swiftly. Earlier, if you wanted to meet a politician or candidate, you’d have to participate in a live event or rally which isn’t possible for everyone. With the new technology, it’s now possible to attend virtual events where you can participate in live streaming events and interact with politicians and candidates concerned no matter how far you are; the blend of technology and political motives serve a successful dish.
Though, the confirmation bias on social media is a different tale. It’s influential when it comes to controversial topics, including politics, is questionable. A large majority of your followers on social media probably share your outlook. This means that the vast majority of tweets, Facebook posts or other content you read on these sites tend to express the same point of view, one that you already hold. Let us suppose you have a few hundred friends on Facebook, for example, and 90 percent of them agree on most political issues, the data you get will be filtered through this bias. They will connect to stories that confirm your existing bias. They’ll repeat these opinions you already hold. If you make an effort to connect with people with diverse viewpoints, you can overcome confirmation bias and use social media to make you more open-minded; in the other world, the cycle of same opinion and content continues.
In the line of the advertising industry, we make sure that ads and messages reach the right audience. Using social media, candidates address the potential voters including all gender, race, and age groups, with high customization option available.
One with a sound hand on using social media analytics and targeted advertising, candidates and politicians’ campaign can stand apart.
And today, we are witnessing the impact of social media in society. A lot of political changes can happen due to social media and are happening. Maybe, in future, there would be internet voting which could result in more people participating in elections, but that imagination is strengthened by what we have seen so far.
Pamphlets to online spams—political parties have come a long way.
According to the head of Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT cell, Arvind Gupta, while talking in a digital seminar, explained how the party used digital media to aid their campaign process in 2014 general elections in India.
“We had to evangelize the whole digital and social media within the party. We always believed in digital media which for us means mobile, social and non-social internet” he said. “That’s what we used very progressively.”
He also stated that a good percent of campaign budget was kept aside to be spent in digital media alone. That’s the reason why digital and social media became an important tool in BJP’s last arsenal. As per the analysis, in the 2014 general elections, 160 seats were highly impacted by this medium.
Now with assembly elections due in Kashmir valley, let’s see which mode of communication would be used to target and interact with the voters, especially youth. Maybe using social media influence in an organized way here, the ever-falling voter turnout percentage might increase. But in the end, it all depends on the political parties and their will to outreach.