- Rahul Gandhi's exclusive with Arnab Goswami, and the 3 million tweets alone on official hashtag #RahulSpeaksToArnab turned to be just another indicator of the significance of social media in Indian General Elections 2014
India, the world’s largest democracy, is one of the hottest investment markets globally. Naturally all eyes are set on the upcoming General Elections 2014 and digital has quite a role to play in the elections this year. 123 million internet users, 16 million Twitter users, the exclusive interview of Rahul Gandhi with Arnab Goswami and the 3 million tweets alone on official hashtag #RahulSpeaksToArnab turned to be just another indicator of the significance of digital media.
Such was the digital amplification created when Rahul Gandhi, Prime Ministerial candidate from the Indian National Congress Party, which is the current ruling party in India, gave an exclusive interview to Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief, Times Now on January 27, 2014. If the data points are to be analysed further, this slew of reactions can be considered as a dipstick before the actual Indian General Elections 2014 – an event which the whole world has its eyes on. The tweeting audience to this event did not just comprise the youth alone, but all age groups, across all social platforms, thus amplifying the effect generated.
Gautam Kiyawat, CEO, Madison Media Group, Madison Communications commented, “There have been very few instances when an Indian politician has agreed to do a 90-minute one-on-one interview on national television during peak times of political frenzy. This itself made it ripe to start a wave of social commentary. In this case, the person involved, the content, the build-up, the firm yet polite interviewing style – all add up to the chatter we are seeing. We need more politicians to embrace this format and you will see the same dynamics. The garnering of 3 million tweets and more, was expected.”
Four key takeaways emerged out of the discussions on social media about arguably one of the biggest interviews yet on Indian news television.
#1 Politics is becoming a prime topic of conversation: If the volume, frequency, interest and content of the tweets is anything to go by, one can conclude that politics is being discussed heavily on social media in wake of the upcoming elections. Not just Twitter, Facebook also heavily saw a huge upsurge of reactions to this topic of high political importance. “Social media is fast becoming the pulse of the first time voters – with 91 million Facebook users in India, digital media is going to play a decisive role in the upcoming elections,” said Vivek Bhargava, CEO – iProspect-Communicate2.
As Twitter is a platform frequented by the youth as well, it can be concluded that the urban youth has an opinion, which has the potential to amplify on social media. “Significant buzz is being generated and that is getting more people to talk. The sheer volume of tweets indicates that there are more political conversations happening than other subjects,” said Ashutosh Srivastava, Chairman/CEO, APAC, Russia and Emerging Markets, Mindshare.
#2 Social media investment by political parties is paying off: The General Elections of 2014 has seen some of the biggest social media investments by political parties. This phenomenon is being witnessed for the first time in India. “The Indian General Elections of 2014 has seen seamless inclusion and integration of politics into social media, a phenomenon which was unheard of in India, few years ago. In fact such social media explosion took place in a big way only in the past 10 months in India. More than digital presence and encouraging conversations and engagements, political parties are also investing financially in this medium, especially into data analytics to gauge the pulse of the audience,” said Suveer Bajaj, Co-Founder – FoxyMoron, a digital agency in India.
The hype leading to this big interview was created on all social and digital platforms owned by Indian National Congress. The political party had also recently kicked off its new campaign on the digital fronts promoting social and economic inclusion as its prime agenda. The digital audience is aware of all prime developments as was gauged by the tone of few tweets. The instant feedbacks and comments garnered, and use of smart data analytics, can help shape the political parties’ strategies in future.
#3. Social media influence and amplification is a mirror: If the widespread social commentary is anything to go by, this flood of reactions can be termed as a dipstick before the elections. Vineet Gupta, Managing Partner, 22feet Digital pointed out that, “As per reports there are around 160 high impact constituencies out of the total of 543 constituencies, which are likely be influenced by social media during the General Elections 2014 in India. This, therefore, is a medium that every party is likely to be focusing on – for reasons right or wrong.”
“By nature, Twitter supports commentary and opinions. It is regarded as a platform for the more educated, niche and smart audience. These are the opinion influencers and will play a big role in the upcoming elections. With the analysis, amplifications, favouriting and retweeting, it is not a surprise that this event reached close to 3 million Tweets on the official handle,” Mr Bajaj added.
The younger generation is paying attention to the political developments in the country, as seen with the flood on Twitter and Facebook. “Amongst other audience, Twitter is a platform frequented by the youth and the widespread commentary about this interview on Twitter proves that the younger, voting generation is paying enough attention to the politics in the country. This section of the outspoken digital crowd is a high influencer of opinion and it can be seen with the amount of Facebook statuses and Tweets it has gathered already,” said Ashraf Engineer, Vice President of Content & Insights, MSL Group in India.
#4: Smart use of digital media by a news broadcast channel: With 3 million tweets on the official hashtag, Times Now has been officially credited as the first news channel in India to get such high Twitter mention. The channel created great buzz about the interview on all its digital platforms, including Vine. It also was engaged in live tweeting during the interview, thus active Twitter users switched on their television sets to watch it live. The entire transcript was then released on Times Of India and The Economic Times – print media owned by Times Group in India.
The channel continued discussions and audience engagement on Twitter well after the interview was aired. Currently, the 90-minute interview stream on YouTube is monetised, with ads playing pre-roll and mid-roll, thus generating revenue for the channel, without any investment. The social amplification thus became a great topic of discussion and was picked up by mostly all national as well as international media. This showed how news channels are now content providers, rather than mere TV channels