One of the important components for most candidates is to tap into the millennial demographics on social networks. Millennials( Generation Y) are the majority users of all popular social media channels. For example, among the Internet users, the total percentage of Facebook users is 72% of which 82 % of them are within the age group of 18-29. This fact can help candidates target the millennials. If a candidate can have an impact on this age group, they are most likely to share the message with others in their networks. When candidates share their message supported with photographs and videos, it makes them memorable to this audience. The goal is to influence these young voters and also to get their friends to vote.
Moreover, the visuals help these people make judgements about the person. Yes, it is a double-edged sword. Any wrong or misleading post will backfire right to the candidate. But, if used correctly, it could be a game-changer for the elections. The purpose is to have a positive impact of social media on Indian Election system
As we all know, President Obama was the first to enter social media for his campaigns. His ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA) campaign on Reddit became one of the most threads of all times. His strategy was to reach minority groups and young voters. It was highly successful and effective in the 2008 and 2012 elections. Following him, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush have entered Instagram and Snapchat to reach the increasing number of the younger generation who use this social media channel.
Now let’s have a glimpse of the impact of Social media on Indian Election system
All major Indian political parties have their online presence through social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Social media for Politics can be for advertisements, geographic targeting, fundraising, and mobilising people. Social media gives the opportunity for everyone to participate, interact in the social media election campaigns and also become political activists. It also gives them more information about the candidates and therefore helps in choosing them wisely.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first to use social media as a platform to reach his audience. Research says that through digital media, he could convey his messages clearly to a large population. Narendra Modi used all digital platforms as well as offline channels to reach the big number. Modi’s page ‘I support Narendra Modi’ and a Whatsapp number were launched to boost up the campaign. Through Social media, he made the citizens if India aware of their voting rights. Modi understood the importance of youth for elections. He, therefore, tried to connect to and engage the massive population of youth through social media. India’s 2014 election is being called a #TwitterElection because it is the largest democratic election in the world to date and so much of it took place online. Rather than using mainstream media, Modi announced his win via Twitter @narendramodi to his 4.27 million fans and encouraged voters to tweet their ‘Fingies‘ or ‘ungli’ in Hindi with the hashtag#selfiewithmodi. Selfies came in mostly from the younger crowds but was certainly not limited by age.
As per indiaonlinepages site 2014, 50% of the population is below the age group of 25 and 65 % is below the age group of 35. This population is either studying or working in various companies such as IT companies, BPOs, research centres and various other sectors. Their busy schedule has created a lot of distance from the conventional channels of media such as radio or television for updating them with the news. This age group is also tech savvy and always connected to the Internet to be updated with the latest trends. So the politicians are also becoming tech savvy in order to attract this particular group of people and social media channels are the perfect way to be connected. For the 2014 General elections, every political party participating set 2-5% of its election budget for spending on social media. It was observed that AAP and BJP were fighting against each other on social media but the Congress party realised its importance quite late.
It is quite difficult to predict the extent of the impact of Social media on Indian Election system because it is still new to the Indian Politics. If it used as a mere campaign tool, it might not be very effective in the long term. But if used effectively for active citizen engagement and as a platform to share the latest decisions made by the Government, social media will show positive results for future Indian elections.