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 How Social media can enhance political campaigns in India?

How Social media can enhance political campaigns in India?

Politics is as old as man’s nature and his environment. Democracy too has also evolved from the times of the Greco-Roman civilization up to the present age. Politics in any democracy necessitates the synthesis of communication between its elected representatives and citizens. Our Indian democracy has definitely evolved through time, and the nature of politics and campaigning too has seen a paradigm shift. Political campaigning strategies over the years have evolved as the nature of mass media and communications have undergone significant changes. The renowned media scholar Marshall McLuhan in his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, had coined this phrase – “The medium is the message”. In this book, he lays more emphasis on the nature of the medium through which messages are transmitted rather than the content of the message. Every medium through which a message is transmitted – newspaper, television, radio, film, magazines, public relations or the web has an effect on its audiences. Hence, the nature of communication is dependent on the nature of the medium through which messages are transmitted.

            Political communication through various channels has different effects on audiences. Political campaigning involves the use of various tools to reach out to audiences through communication. This process enables the voter or the citizen to engage better with an elected representative. In the earlier days, newspapers were prominent among citizens especially in getting updates about politics and other topical issues. There was a top-down flow of information in the hierarchy of news. Soon the medium of radio and television also made its impact on audiences, in a much more powerful way. But with the advancement of the internet, there is a two-way flow between the sender and the receiver. If one needs to get access to an elected representative, social media enables easier access to communication between parties. There is a huge advantage as there is no monopoly over information while transmitting messages.

           Today, even in political campaigning and political communication, social media has changed the rules of the game completely giving an edge to the medium’s effect on its respective audiences. Every medium has its positives and negatives. Social media used by political parties and political consultancies have a strategic edge in terms of reach. The effectiveness of these channels, when used by political consulting firms, can be detrimental in capturing the mind of the voter, in turn bridging that disconnect which exists between various leaders and citizens. Social media tools and messaging apps like Facebook, What’s App, Instagram and Twitter can definitely bring about a change in the campaign process. Today, in India there is greater penetration of the internet into various households. Our citizens even in rural India are connected to the internet. Their mobile phones are always connected to the news and politics of the day. In such a situation, political parties cannot just rely on one medium to reach his voter. There has to be a multipronged approach in connecting to various citizens.

          Political consulting firms use social media as a predominant method to reach different citizens. This can enhance a greater reach among voters in different constituencies. Political consulting firms use social media strategies as most citizens rely not just on traditional forms of media but new technologies. With great planning and effective strategies, social media channels can definitely create better engagement between the sender and receiver. Political consulting firms only act as a catalyst in this process on behalf of the client in reaching out to various citizens. The advantage of using social media for campaigning are many- There could be multimedia messages targeted geographically; One can use visual forms of content like interviews and films which cannot be done through print media; A fan page or Facebook page could be created wherein a moderator can take cues and queries in every location; Periodic messages could be sent on behalf of the client ( The party’s manifesto, plans for governance, grievances etc.) to various citizens.

            Today the internet penetration in rural areas have created an environment wherein social media communication could thrive and excel. Leaders from various political parties, not just journalists use Twitter to communicate their views. This is only making social media more prominent, and it also creates new avenues for communication. This two-way communication could create an atmosphere for effective dialogues between citizens and their elected representatives. The advantage of social media is that it is communicated in real time and has a longer shelf life unlike traditional modes of communication. Political campaign strategies can include an effective mix of both social media tools and traditional forms of communication. This leaves no stone unturned. When consulting firms use every available medium to reach out to the citizen, then there is greater reach across geography. What matters most is that citizens understand their elected representatives and their policies which can bring about a change in our country. If social media is only helping in this process of bringing trust between leaders and voters, then why not use any new medium to communicate and build that trust? After all, clarity in communication can bring greater trust and with trust comes transparency. Transparency should be the hallmark of an effective political discourse today.

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