Delhi assembly polls to see big spends on social media ads

Experts suggest that political parties each are expected to spend Rs 10-15 crore on social media advertising

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jan 9, 2020 12:55 PM
Delhi Elections

With Delhi elections just a month away, social media spending by political parties are peaking again. Talking of social media advertisement, the biggest gainer this time again is Facebook which will benefit from Twitter's decision to ban political advertisement, while Instagram and TikTok will see some money too through content.

Experts suggest that each of the political parties are expected to spend upwards of Rs 10-15 crore each on social media advertising. “BJP would lead the list of spenders in social media ads for Delhi polls like many other recently concluded polls followed by AAP who is aggressively spending on advertising on social media. Third in line would be Congress,” said a senior political consultant.
Both BJP and AAP have a proven track record in using the digital media in building narratives and a big part of the Delhi elections will be fought over the digital space as the two key parties AAP and BJP are the most digitally organised and have well established online cells who will be using various social media tools.

As it turns out, according to Facebook’s ad library between October 8, 2019, and January 5, 2020, political parties spent Rs 7,573,267 with BJP being the second highest spender after Paltu Aadmi Party, a mock page on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal that spent Rs 543,549 in the last 90 days. BJP’s official ad spends for this period stood at Rs 429,412 in this period. Aam Aadmi Party’s official page invested Rs 171,696 in the period on Facebook ads.

It is interesting how parties not just invest in political ads on social media through their official pages but also through party members’ official pages, affiliate pages and campaign pages. For instance, a page in the name of My Delhi, My Pride spent Rs 301,835. The page has a pro-AAP approach but neither is it an official page for the party nor comes with any claims of being run by the party.

Elaborating on how this works for the parties, Naresh Arora, Director at DesignBoxed, the agency that handled Congress’s social media campaigns in the general elections earlier in 2019 and the recently concluded Haryana assembly elections said: “How many people get on to official pages of political parties to see their content? Only a handful would. The best strategy is to invest in surrogate pages so that the video views are organic and has the desired reach. At the end of the day it is about reaching the maximum number of people and it is not in the capacity of just official blue ticked pages to do so individually.”

According to Arora, it is not just the money spent on promoting an ad on Facebook that should be considered while calculating spends on social media ad. “Social media ad is also content which is very expensive to make,” Arora added. While most of the snackable content on social media is created free of cost by users, political parties, concentrating on using the format are willing to shed close to Rs 1 lakh for a high quality 15-30 second video content, said experts.

What makes these huge spends worthwhile for political parties? Is social media ads just for propaganda or does it get voters to the polling booth too? Experts suggest it’s a mix of both.

“Previously, a lot of people were voting without complete information on their candidates as they did not have access to the same. Now, with the advent of social media, people are more informed about their choices. As a result of this, we have witnessed an increased participation from the members of NCCS A and above categories in last couple of years. It is great to see them returning to the polling booths. Also, it’s also a cool thing to vote these days for those social media inked finger selfies,” said Shradha Agarwal, COO and Co-founder, Grapes Digital.

“Political arguments are increasingly entering our drawing rooms and engaging more members than ever. It is a halo effect of barrage of information flowing on social media. You don’t have to look for it, it will be served to you. So, if you are planning to join politics your first advertising medium will be social media,” Agarwal added.

Talking on how and why social media investments become important for the parties ahead of the Delhi polls, Anup Sharma, independent political communications consultant said, “The assembly elections in Delhi will be very important, not just because of the political significance. At one level it will see the fight for 'survival' for AAP and on the other hand the 'revival' for BJP in state,” he said.

“Delhi has more than 80 per cent of the population digitially connected with a smartphone in almost every household. The political parties realise the potential of social media marketing and will have digital in all their communications strategies to ensure its maximum utilisation. AAP had created history in 2015 winning not only a record number of 67 seats of the 70, but also creating digital campaign milestones with various initiatives,” Sharma added.

In 2015, AAP was one of the first political parties to use AAP crowd sourcing platform - Thunderclap to create awareness about their election manifesto and urging people to go out and vote. They also used Google Plus Hangout besides the successful Muffler Man is Back digital campaign.

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