Candidates use hashtags and live videos to talk to voters
PUNE: Door-to-door campaigning is more or less passe now. In the digital age of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube accounts, candidates fighting the upcoming municipal elections have found new ways to reach today’s tech-savvy voters.
Candidates feel digital media is changing the way political parties interact with voters, bridging the gap like never before, and so many candidates and parties have set aside a budget of Rs 5 lakh to Rs 7 lakh for digital campaigning.
Candidates contesting zilla parishad elections are also heavily depending on social media with smartphones penetrating even rural areas.
While the social media campaigning of almost all parties and candidates has just about picked up, the target is voters in the age group of 18 to 45 years. IT and social marketing head of Bharatiya Janata Party in Pune, Sachin Madhare, said, “We have started targeting out voters through Facebook and have already made 41 ward-wise pages. Each page administrator has now been given a target of adding potential voters to the group and campaign about the candidates in the area. We also have WhatsApp groups and our SMS campaigns reached almost 6-7 lakh citizens; and in the next ten days we will target about 17-18 lakh citizens through social media.”
Vinay Kulkarni, who runs Smart Media, a firm that plans social media marketing for several individual candidates, said, “Many candidates have not even begun campaigning yet as they were unsure about getting a ticket. However, there are about 15-20 candidates who were sure about their nomination and began campaigning. We have designed videos to share on various social media platforms. WhatsApp chats are trending, wherein the candidate interacts with citizens through the video chat feature. Candidates also speak about their work to voters through the Facebook Live platform.”
The strategy involves three to four posts every day at specific timings when traffic on social media is largest, as determined by various analytics. Social media marketing companies gain paid ‘likes’ on Facebook, twitter and also Instagram accounts to attract netizens.
Social Rajneeti is another firm which manages the political campaign strategy and makes candidates and parties better prepared for elections. Its director Rahul Jain said that this time, the social media campaigns have begun really late, compared to the Lok Sabha elections, when online campaigning began almost 45 days in advance.
Jain said, “With little time in hand, we have a challenging job to lead a creative campaign rather than a content-driven campaign that would ensure maximum voters join the trail. Through WhatsApp, we are circulating small clips of candidate’s achievements and missions, while other platforms are also being used intensely to reach out to voters.”
Manali Bhilare, social media head and Yuvati president of the party, said, “We have made our Facebook pages interactive and upload daily quizzes, and we get quite a few responses from netizens. Questions based on the city’s developments are asked, and as a result we achieve our daily target audience for interaction where we promote our candidates. The thrust is more on visuals, as it gains trust and authenticity from voters. Hence, we have started sending videos about our candidates on WhatsApp and YouTube. Our target is to reach out to 15 lakh voters through SMS and voice messages too.”
The Pune Municipal Corporation’s election department has appointed experts to keep an eye on how candidates and political parties use social media during the election campaign. These experts would ensure effective implementation of the election code of conduct to ensure free and fair elections.