The recently concluded general elections have become a study in the use of social media analytics to gain understanding of human behaviour at a micro level. How the Bharatiya Janata party used the data collected to get the momentum going formed the core of Arvind Gupta’s talk at exchange4media’s CMO League held at the Leela in Gurgaon on September 5. exchange4media’s CMO League was presented by Headlines Today and powered by Dainik Bhaskar. Himalayan was the Associate Sponsor, while Co Sponsor was Tez.
An IIT BHU graduate and PhD in data analysis from Illinois in US, Gupta shared the best practices employed by the BJP and how the seeds for this clean sweep by the saffron party were sown five years ago. “In 2009, the BJP performed miserably and it was a lesson learnt the hard way. There was no personalisation or planning. We were directionless, a party in chaos. That’s when we realised the importance of planning ahead. The seeds were sown for the 2014 campaign,” explained Gupta.
Explaining how technology was leveraged to its own advantage by the party, Gupta added, “In early 2010, we began the planning. We worked back with the data. We segmented all electoral booths and studied the internet penetration in that booth. Extensive planning and research was conducted. We knew how to reach each constituency. Having data at a micro level is key to planning any campaign.”
BJP’s social media campaign tried out some masterstrokes that worked in its favour. They trained volunteers as online campaigners. They understood where they were weak and focused on those areas. The party had 22 lakh volunteers who were trained to focus on the areas.
“We found out that 160 seats were digitally strong and 200 seats were still digitally dark. They had to be our focus group. We used technology innovatively and what helped even more was that Mr Modi was a master communicator. We held virtual rallies where Mr Modi could personalise the message. Speed, size and scale turned out to be the biggest factors in this campaign,” he said.
Gupta gave immense importance to ‘crowd-sourcing of ideas’ and spoke about the positives of being open to ideas from people at large. Personalisation of messaging became another strong pillar in the campaign and digital media helped by precise targeting and smarter reach. The campaigners mastered the art of free air time or free media. In fact, digital brought down the cost of engagement producing the highest ROI.
When asked what the reasons for the dismal performance of other parties were, Gupta replied, “Other parties had a bad product. They also failed miserably on their communication. They misjudged and undermined the mood of the nation. There were clear signs which they chose to ignore. Congress should have recalibrated its campaign after reading the signs.”
When asked about mid-campaign course correction, Gupta was quick to point out that his team did at least four-five corrections by becoming more aggressive each time. Addressing marketers, he shared how small victories and strong self-belief led the campaign to its successful completion and a resounding victory for the BJP.
His final words to marketers summed up his message, “Content is key and the meat lies in execution and implementation. Social media had set the narrative for traditional media”.