How AAP won the social media battle in Delhi polls

Aam Aadmi Party’s central war room for the elections.

Aam Aadmi Party’s central war room for the elections.   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

The party played ‘smart’ by roping in professionals for new-age platforms, opted for online advertisements focusing on age-specific videos; BJP banked on apps and social networking sites for dissemination of content

From advertising on Google, which was never done before by the party, to hiring professional help for advertisements and holding meetings with its social media teams three months before the notification of the elections, the Aam Aadmi Party fought a pitched social media battle in the run-up to the 2020 Delhi Assembly elections.

According to Facebook, AAP spent ₹69 lakh on advertisements from February 2019 to February 2020, during which the party fought the Lok Sabha and Delhi Assembly elections.

“We did Google and Youtube advertisements for the first time and it gave us visibility that was unprecedented for us. One could see our advertisements on different websites while browsing, though we did not have any deal with the sites,” Ankit Lal, social media and information technology head of AAP, told The Hindu.

“In 2019 Lok Sabha election, we spent a small amount on Facebook advertisements. But we never did anything of this scale. Also, the money spent on Facebook advertisements was higher compared with previous elections,” he said.

Though banner advertisements on Google were generic, they had different advertisements for different age groups. “The videos we used were age-specific. We had different videos for senior citizens and youngsters,” he said.

A party volunteer left his job as a digital advertising professional to handle the Facebook and Google advertisements for AAP, he added.

Game changer

Videos were the ultimate game changer this time, Mr. Lal said, adding that the party had for the first time hired professional help for the purpose.

“We operated on two fronts and it was a conscious choice. On one front, we highlighted the work done by the AAP government and on the other, we attacked Manoj Tiwari [Delhi BJP president] as he was the easiest target,” Mr. Lal said.

“We needed help as we did not have the bandwidth to do it. We took help from a professional agency and their team saw hundreds of movies and songs of Manoj Tiwari and also all the Big Boss [TV reality show] episodes. Sometimes, after watching a three-hour-long movie, they would find a five-second clip that we could use. This was their primary work,” Mr. Lal said.

From these clips the team made memes that went viral.

“They were also handling new-age platforms such as ShareChat and TikTok and our teams were handling Facebook and Twitter on which we have a strong presence,” he added.

On the response that they received, he said, “There were two types of responses. One was real time from the party’s Twitter account, which was done by us. But the memes and video content were done by the agency.”

Advertising tactic

When asked whether these online advertisements translated into votes, Mr. Lal, said, “It is very intangible.”

“But there was a lot of conversation around it and stories in mainstream media. When the social media posts spilled onto mainstream media, which was our ultimate goal, it did have an impact. We saved a lot of money by grabbing the same eyeballs without advertising,” Mr. Lal said.

In 2015, no one used these many videos. In the 2020 elections, the concentration was on videos and there was also better Internet penetration.

“Three months ago, we called a meeting of social media teams and gave them a list of works done by the party. We did not have a troll army, it was not [Narendra] Modi versus [Arvind] Kejriwal, but there was a lot of content in it,” an AAP spokesperson said. The leader said that about 25 smaller teams coordinated with the central team.

BJP’s strategy

Leaders associated with the BJP’s social media campaign said the party sought to harness the might of a national team, along with that of as many as 5,800 WhatsApp groups, during the Delhi Assembly elections.

The creation of content for these, however, was not limited to its social media war rooms only. Nukkad nataks, ground surveys and interviews with common citizens also contributed to the content.

“We created a strong Whatsapp network. Videos were made to expose Kejriwal on a regular basis. Counter videos were also created to give a befitting reply to AAP,” said Pratyush Kanth, Delhi BJP in-charge of media, social media and IT cell.

“While videos were made in Bhojpuri to attract the Poorvanchali voters, regular trends on Twitter were not only of this content but also of content generated from the ground through nukkad nataks and campaigns being undertaken by our leaders,” Mr. Kanth said.

This content was then disseminated to over 5,800 Whatsapp groups as soon as possible, he added.

Instant communication

According to Neelkant Bakshi, co-head of Delhi BJP media, social media and IT cell, instant dissemination of content was the key objective of the party.

“There was a lot of content being generated and emphasis was on ensuring that this was made available for downloading and sharing at the earliest,” Mr. Bakshi said.

“We made massive use of Twitter and Instagram and even launched specific apps like ‘Kamal Connect’ with a purpose to disseminate contents of Manoj Tiwari’s campaign, including songs,” he added.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 2:42:43 PM |

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