Even though the BJP’s overall election campaign started much later than that of Congress, the former’s astute digital media strategy, which saw it explore diverse options like 3D rallies, crowdsourced speeches and, of course, the social media, gave it a unique edge in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Where the Congress for a major part of the campaign seemed to have just a hygiene-level presence on digital media, Narendra Modi and the BJP went all guns blazing. It might be inaccurate to suggest that this digital blitz was solely responsible for swinging voters in his favour, but it did help in adding credence to Modi’s image as a progressive and savvy politician. Let’s take a look at some of the more maverick ideas by India’s new prime minister-designate.
Last year, before his speech at Pune’s Fergusson College, Narendra Modi’s Facebook page carried a post asking students to send in their suggestions on topics that they wanted addressed in his speech. This trend of ‘crowdsourced’ speeches continued through the Lok Sabha election campaign for different rallies. The suggestions were properly curated through platforms like Mission272.com and India272.com, with the most valid suggestions being incorporated into Modi’s speeches. What this did was make the speeches more contextual and region-focused. It also gave people, as well as BJP volunteers at the grass root level a chance to get their thoughts heard.
Using Google+ Hangout to reach the Indian Diaspora
Narendra Modi was the first political leader from India to realise the advantage of the Google+ Hangout feature to connect with people around the globe. Way back in 2012, he answered questions from Indians across the globe via a Hangout session moderated by Ajay Devgan. The rush of people, in fact, caused Google’s servers to crash.
The Hangout, which was broadcast live on Modi’s Google+ page and on YouTube, was viewed by 82,000 people across 116 countries, with millions more seeing it on television. The session generated 70,000 tweets and about 166,000 hits on Modi's website, further states the report. In 2013, Modi also became the only Chief Minister to be invited to talk on “Technology in Politics” at the Google Big Tent Activate Summit 2013, the event being streamed on Hangout.
Organizing simultaneous rallies using 3D holographic technology
100 rallies on the same day, at the same time? Modi created a buzz among supporters and neutrals alike when he announced on his website the 3D Bharat Vijay rally. Through April and May, the “3D Campaign” saw him address rallies at a number of locations across India with a holographic image standing in for him. Think of the reach possible through one simple innovation. The rally was also available live on his official website and was also promoted through CAG (Citizens for Accountable Governance’s website).
Utilizing in-app and display advertising on mobile and desktop
Apart from using mobile phones to reach out to the electorate through SMS and voice messages, the BJP campaign also utilized banner advertisements and in-app ads to spread the message. In the weeks leading up to the elections, many popular apps across all major OS would see a BJP ad unit. This was not limited to only applications but could also be seen on web properties.
The party also launched a number of apps across platforms to provide information on their candidates, the latest news and quotes from their leaders and other information. For example, the official Narendra Modi app had more than 50,000 downloads, while the Mission 272+ app had more than 10,000 downloads on the Play Store. The intention once again was to target every available option that a person could use to interact with the party and its prime ministerial candidate.
Maintaining an updated website
With all the attention that was paid to different facets of the digital campaign, it was only obvious that Modi’s official website would be well maintained. The website kept an up-to-date record of news, rally information, speeches, campaign information, videos, interviews, etc. for visitors. The website was also connected to every major social platform, making it easy for his supporters to further spread information.
Getting an edge on social media
We have spoken about this in detail in an earlier article.
(How BJP gained the edge in the social media battle )
Narendra Modi and the BJP had an early mover advantage on social media and they never lost that grip in the months leading to the elections. Simplify360, a social analytics company, analyzed millions of Twitter conversations, which showed that Narendra Modi was the most popular politician among Twitter users in almost every week since the beginning of January. Barring a few weeks where negative sentiment against him saw an increase, the prime minster designate had a high positive sentiment among Twitter users.
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This remarkable achievement was a result of a number of factors—Modi’s social media team had a clear mandate, viz. to promote the prime ministerial candidate via regular tweets, which were further spread through volunteers and other party members. Some would argue that BJP’s performance on social media suffered because of this one-directional approach but the strategy did pay dividends. Apart from the frequency and amplification, the content also caused them to stand out. Use of catchy hashtags (#AbkiBaarModiSarkaar, #NaMo, etc.) helped create a buzz, while the use of personalized messages to followers and a more ‘human’ language helped create a stronger connection.