Sunday, July 6, 2014

Political Campaign and the Digital Space

It would be an understatement if we say that the use of Social and digital media is not important in the present socio-political context.

Personally speaking, the shaping of my political conscience began with the advent of social networking sites such as Orkut etc. That was around 7-8 years back. Now the world has vroomed on with lightning speed.

You must have seen multiple slide presentations on the importance of digital space in political context. Loads of reports and even books on “how to use the medium effectively to spread the message” and what each social media platform does to enhance your message.

Having spent considerable amount of my time daily on the digital space, sharing my opinions on them- I have realized the huge importance of this medium. But sometimes, it is immensely difficult to convince political leaders and workers who still prefer conventional ways of communication.

Indian politics has suddenly changed after these elections, and the noise in the digital space has played its part in order to shape the discourse. It is upto the winners and the losers to analyse whether they benefited from its usage or non-usage. My opinion always has been it is the medium of the future.

Slowly and steadily, the digital media has and replaced part of the conventional main stream media space.
There have been umpteen successful examples of politicians using the digital space to send out messages. In Indian context, it is like a public rally- to your supporters, to media and to all and sundry.

Still Indian politics, has a long way to go in terms of getting grassroot politicians on these platforms and talk about grassroot issues.

A trend of regional and local politicians joining these social sites has already begun, but that’s too small a number. The political party which realizes the importance of the medium will surely get its top leadership on board, and spread its wings to atleast district level cells till the next elections. Or it will miss the bus.

Building conversations is an important ingredient to prepare a public image. Building public perception takes a certain amount of time- with calculated moves. It is not something new. Mahatma Gandhi, was the greatest public artist of our times. Everything he did was a media event. Even if it was just to march to the see and take a fist full of salt in his hands. He called in the media and made it a huge event.

One needs to learn that art, especially if one aspires to be a successful leader. All successful Prime Ministers of India have carefully used the media to carve out a strong image in the minds of the people. Not to belittle their actions, but to say that they extrapolated their actions and messages with a good media strategy. They certainly had a connect with the masses.

But, while social media cannot be a substitute for conventional campaigning, they can help to set the agenda of public debate, because traditional media – newspapers and television, which do reach most voters – tap into social networks for information about and from politicians. This indirect impact makes social media an indispensable communications tool for politicians.

In this era of new media, political leaders will have to use this new media to their advantage, if they want to sustain themselves

The technique remains the same. Just like Mahatma Gandhi announced his every action and created a media blitz around it (May be not intentionally) one has to constantly use the digital space to communicate. It is like a public rally, albeit a virtual one.

Those who won’t communicate will certainly miss the bus and lose their existence.