Democratized Content: A Tool of Political Marketing


Preeti Malhotra
HOD, Department of Mass Comm

Social media footprint of Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi is a Tom & Jerry Story

Is there a correlation between the number of Facebook likes and the number of votes secured? The graphical representation of social media footprints of Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi (during 2019 elections) reveals a Tom & Jerry story. Indians really didn’t need no psephologist to announce the arrival of Modi Sarkar.




Learnings from the US
Cut to the last US elections (2016) and the revelations of data breach by Cambridge Analytica make it amply clear that the political marketing pundits have a new tool in their hand to design political communication. A comparison of the ad spent by Donald Trump ($44million) and Hillary Clinton ($28million) in June-Nov 2016 and the difference of approach to political communication reaffirms that the social media platforms are no more unchartered territories for the political aspirants.

A report says Trump ran 5.9 million ad variations while Clinton ran 66000 ads on the social media in June-Nov 2016. Trump’s social media team tweaked and modified the non-performing ads on social media and even eliminated the non-performing ones on the go. Trump’s team leveraged social features such as creating lookalike audiences to generate traction and build momentum. Trump’s social media approach has since been termed “spear fishing” and Clinton’s approach is considered equivalent to “net fishing”.  

Tweaking Content To Capture Voters    

Is democratized communication or the user generated content the new device in the hands of the political marketers? Given the exponential growth of social media, the potential of Facebook and Twitter to continually enhance political participation is undoubted. Radio took 38 years to reach 50 million users, Television took 13 years to reach that number, Internet took 4 years to get there but Facebook has hit the same number of users in 10 months! The number of social media users’ world over stood at 0.97 billion in 2010 but at the turn of 2018, the corresponding figure stood at 2.62 billion.

However, there is dearth of empirical evidence or research to ascertain how political ad campaigns, if deployed ethically and without trust breaches, will impact political behaviour of the voters. In other words, questions such as- is the degree/level of user engagement a key indicator of the voting behaviour remain unanswered? Interactivity of the social media gives an opportunity to the political players to test the pitch and make amends in the message of their campaigns ahead of the final match.

Media Management Lessons

Even if the social media footprint of Trump and Modi are taken as key indicators of their emergence, parameters such as content type, characteristics of the communicated content, day and time of upload, type of social media interface used, level of customer/ voter engagement (likes, comments, shares or retweets), number of clicks/page views in the initial hours and in subsequent hours, the placement of the content, duration of the content display on home page, cross promotion of the content in numerous social media platforms and navigation behaviour of the customer/voter may hold significant media management lessons for the campaign/ political communication managers at large.     

Moreover, there is a need for a transparent process to deploy social media in political communication or political marketing as the case may be. If US, a market way ahead of India in terms of social media maturity, can be so susceptible to social media manipulation, do we even stand a chance to see through the social media designs of our political masters.

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