Will Social Media, Big Data Prove To Be Game-Changers in 2014 Elections?


Ahead of India's 16th General (Lok Sabha) Elections 2014, to be conducted between April and May, major political parties in the country are going all out to charm the electorate on various social media platforms.

In recent months politicians have been everywhere, right from Google+ Hangouts, to televised videos on Facebook and YouTube, and on WhatsApp to connect with millions of tech-savvy voters.

Political analysts believe that these social platforms could play a major role in deciding the fate of the winner.

A report from the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) in October last year found that there could be a vote swing of 3 to 4 percent in as many as 24 states, which constitute a large chunk of Internet users. The vote swingers can be pre-dominantly young men and non-working women whose affiliation towards social media is high.

In India, Facebook has around 93 million users while Twitter has close to 33 million accounts.

As per reports in the media, the ad spending by the Congress and the BJP, two of the largest parties during this election will be around Rs.500 crore and Rs.400 crore, respectively. Other regional parties are expected to spend an additional Rs. 1,000 crore.

For the first time, major political parties have invested heavily on social media and have earmarked around 2-5 percent of their election budgets for these platforms, the IAMAI report found.

A report from financial daily Mint  last month stated that Indian political parties are moving beyond just having a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google Hangouts or YouTube to using Big Data to influence voters ahead of the general elections.

"Besides holding workshops to educate candidates about social media practices, parties such as the Congress, the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are employing sophisticated social listening, reputation management and analysis tools to identify and nurture social media influencers--like those Twitter users who have specific party leanings and thousands of followers," the Mint article stated.

On a personal note, though these parties have realized the importance of social media and Big Data as tools to fill in the gaps, there has clearly been a lack in creating an integrated strategy. Only time will answer whether these platforms are able to create an impact and provide a shift in the political landscape.

As of now, the only winners in the digital media battle are the tech and social media companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter who are expecting their India revenue to rise this year. (Read: Google, Facebook, Twitter eye Rs. 500 crore social media election pie) 

Do you believe that social media and Big Data will create a difference in the outcome of the upcoming elections or is it just another political gimmick?

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Ashwani Mishra is Executive Editor at DynamicCIO. ...

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