In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, social media platforms are spilling over with electioneering, emerging as a happy hunting ground for political parties and candidates and their supporters to drum up support.
Weeks before elections to the Lok Sabha were announced, advertisements of the then Chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Nandan Nilekani were featured on YouTube.
Now, as the official Congress candidate from Bangalore South, he has more than 3.72 lakh followers on his Facebook page and in excess of 92,500 followers on micro-blogging site Twitter. For the record, the first post on his Facebook account was on October 30, 2013, while his tweets number 617 till March 27. Against the 814.5 million eligible voters in the country, around 205 million people are regular users of the internet (as of October 2013), according to research conducted by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI). “We have 93 million monthly active users in India,” Facebook said in response to a query. Even though Twitter, as a policy does not share user data, industry sources estimate the number of active Twitter users in India to be around 25 million.
The significance and role of the social media in the elections, according to social media-watchers, can be estimated by the meteoric growth in its popularity since 2009 Lok Sabha elections, when Twitter was barely three years old and was yet to catch the fancy of internet users. Facebook had 8 to 10 million active users in India then.
The advertisement solutions offered by the social media are also being exploited by many politicians at targeted groups.
A Facebook spokesperson said: “We can target users in Bangalore in the age group of 18 to 30 belonging to a specific gender”.
Similarly, Twitter, in response to a query, said it offers an advertising framework for all political parties and candidates on how they can increase engagement with voters around four pillars — party, personalities, issues and audience.