India Insight

Social media not a game changer in 2014 elections

By Aditya Kalra and David Lalmalsawma

Political parties in India are relying more on social media ahead of the 2014 election as a way of increasing voter support, even though politicians in general do not expect such efforts to significantly influence election results.

Parties are trying to ride the digital wave by conducting workshops to teach leaders and foot soldiers how to improve engagement on websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The country of 1.2 billion people had around 165 million Internet users as of March, the third-largest in the world, according to data from India’s telecommunications regulator. But the number of social media users is likely to grow to about 80 million by mid-2014, a report released in February said.

For the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s main opposition party, social media is helping as an “accelerator” in conveying their messages to the public.

“I don’t call it a game changer, but an accelerator in this election … it’s definitely setting a narrative, it is influencing a lot of people,” Arvind Gupta, head of the BJP’s IT division, said in an interview.

Shashi Tharoor on Congress’ social media plans, digital presence of Gandhis

By Aditya Kalra and David Lalmalsawma

Political parties in India are relying more on social media ahead of the 2014 election as a way of increasing voter support, even though politicians in general do not expect such efforts to influence election results.

India Insight interviewed Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for human resources and one of the earliest adopters of Twitter in Indian politics. Here are edited excerpts of the interview:

Can social media be a game changer in the upcoming general election?
I think it can be a game influencer, but I wouldn’t go beyond that at this stage, because what we are discovering is that you need various ways of reaching out to the electorate, and social media happens to offer an additional way, not a substitute for any of the traditional means of campaigning.

Interview: India has a lot to offer in terms of Twitter stories – Twittamentary director

Two Indian social media consultants, Avinash Kalla and Bhaskar Pant, plan to release “Twittamentary India”, a film made in collaboration with Singapore-based documentary filmmaker Tan Siok Siok. Like Siok’s 2012 original “Twittamentary”, the new film will take a look at the Twitter community with the help of people on the social media website. “Twittamentary India” will explore the interactions that politicians, journalists and ordinary people have on Twitter in the country.

(Also read: Twitter in India to come alive in new documentary)

Arnika Thakur spoke to Siok about social media, “Twittamentary” and how India became the first country chapter. Edited excerpts from the interview.

Q: How did “Twittamentary” happen?
A: The motivation for making the film came about from my own experience on Twitter. I was kind of an early adopter and I came on Twitter in 2007, before it became mainstream … When I first started using it I thought it was quite inane. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be doing this … But when I started using it, I was amazed by the connections I was able to make, and by the amount of relationships and friendships I was able to form. At the same time I found that those who are really into Twitter had a really hard time trying to convey their experience to people who don’t get it. So I thought that it would actually be a very good topic for a film as film or video can be more visceral and you can convey emotion and experience that will be in logical terms.

Twitter in India to come alive in new documentary

Four years ago, Singapore-based documentary filmmaker Tan Siok Siok asked her Twitter friends to contribute ideas for a Twitter documentary. That was the beginning of her crowd-sourced film ‘Twittamentary’. She spent three years travelling across the United States, meeting strangers and documenting experiences on Twitter as she made the film.

Later this year, two Indian social media consultants, Avinash Kalla and Bhaskar Pant, in collaboration with Siok, plan to release a new film for India. “Twittamentary India” will look at the interactions that politicians, journalists and ordinary people have on Twitter in the country.

The essence remains the same as the original “Twittamentary”, a film about the Twitter community with the help of people on the social media website, but exploring different themes.

No criticism please, we are Indians

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

When I signed up for a Facebook account four years ago, a friend warned me it was “dangerous for your sanity” — of course, she meant it in terms of the time I would spend peeking into other people’s lives (She was right). But on Monday, for 21-year-old Shaheen Dhada, that phrase took on a whole new meaning.

When Dhada updated her Facebook status, complaining about Mumbai’s shutdown following the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, little did she know she would find herself in court pleading for bail after being arrested for “hurting religious sentiments”.

India’s “armchair advisers” join Facebook

Screengrab of Planning Commission's Facebook page

India’s Planning Commission has put a 21st century spin on the way it advises the government on how best to spend its money — by going on Facebook and asking India’s 1.2 billion people to have their say.

The government panel, which dates back to the times of India’s planned economy and was famously panned as an “armchair adviser” by a sitting minister, has invited Indians to post suggestions on a dedicated page on the social networking site.

The page is named after the “Twelfth Plan” of expenditure which spans the five years to 2017, which the influential panel is in the process of formulating.

Will Indian politicians follow in Obama’s e-footsteps?

As the dust settles on a two-year-long election campaign that has now given the United States its first African-American president in Barack Obama, I do wonder if there is a message for Indian politicians from the messenger of change… at least from the way he ran for the White House.

Obama aka ‘the digital candidate’ left no stone unturned in the race to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. For a man who managed to draw crowds in tens of thousands wherever he spoke, Obama realized early in his campaign that his message of ‘change’ had to spread well beyond Democrats and the undecided voters. He wanted America’s youth to be on board and he ensured they did.

He reached out to them by making himself accessible online. Obama used Web 2.0 with a passion, engaging and interacting with them on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter and also used new platforms like podcasts, online video and text messages to get his message across.

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