Social media expert Rajesh Lalwani is the founder of Blogworks, a social media firm. In a conversation with Mohammad Ali, he discusses how political parties, especially the Aam Aadmi Party, utilise the social media, and how the political class is yet to exploit the medium to convey and convince the electorate.
What are your views on the use of social media by the political class? Does it follow a typical pattern?
Use of social media by political leaders and parties is on the rise. However, given that it is really the first time that social conversations are being leveraged for political purposes, clear and meaningful strategies are yet to emerge for most political parties.
Parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Aam Aadmi Party would appear slightly better organised on this medium, with larger support groups, but national parties like the Indian National Congress and others have also started to understand the impact and are beginning to enter the space quite aggressively.
The patterns of usage of the social media by parties and leaders are likely to evolve as they start to understand the nature, and value this phenomenon.
What do you think about the social media strategy of the Aam Aadmi Party? With the AAP being less than a year old, how would you rate its social media growth?
One could argue that the AAP owes its very existence to social media as it emerged from the Jan Lokpal movement lead by Anna and his team, of which Arvind Kejriwal was one. It was the highly polarised and frenzied debate on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and blogs that drove participation in the Anna-led movement.
The AAP has remained different as it is led by highly motivated and heterogeneous volunteer network consisting people from a cross strata.
Its emergence on this medium can be described as testimony to the opportunity for alternate options in the political spectrum and also to the emergence of participative governance.
Where do you place Arvind Kejriwal compared with other political leaders when it comes to social media?
Arvind Kejriwal has consistently stayed among the top 10 leaders in the Blogworks Most-Mentioned Political Leaders Index since its launch in April 2013. Though most of the AAP’s messages have remained focused around ‘remove corruption in politics’, the electorate increasingly wants to know their stand on many others issues like development and economy.
There is a view that the social media scene for the political class has become all about numbers and one-upmanship. What is your view?
At the moment [it has], but as the understanding and strategies evolve, political leaders and parties will understand that the reach is not equal to engagement; and that trending on Twitter may not guarantee votes; or that parody might have a role to play in politics but cannot be your only strategy; that topping negative posts on search engines with positive posts may not change the sentiment of the citizenry. It’s early days yet.