There has been a steady flow of fresh, curated and craftily edited content used to target millennial voters in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.
According to political analysts and digital marketing experts, videos and other online content, inadvertently created by common internet users on one of the several popular social media platforms over a plethora of issues, from creating voter awareness to picking on promises made by ruling parties, have been one of the crucial factors influencing first-time voters.
The sphere of influence growing with each like, share or comment—referred to as engagement—is giving political parties a new medium to communicate with a set of voters who have built their lives and opinions around social media and the content that seamlessly flows through it. Technology and content are also helping bridge the mismatch between parties fielding considerably older candidates, who are actively pursuing the large first-time and other young voter base.
“In the last two to three days before the elections (12 May), there were a lot more videos we were exposed to, each trying to win over voters by targeting the opponent," says 19-year-old Sonali, a first-time voter from Delhi.
Experts say that the volumes of such online content, especially videos, is higher close to polls as it helps target swing voters, mostly youngsters, who have access to smartphones, data and may not respond to traditional political campaigns. First-time voters account for over 84 million, out of the total 900 million voters in India. 15 million are aged between 18 and 19 years.
“The number of swing voters is higher compared to the base voters," says Naman Pugalia, a political campaign planner, and founder of FourthLion Technologies.
Political parties have to target each age group differently, as the concept of registered voters has not caught up in India like the west. Analysts say that political outfits find it relatively easier to convert youngsters who reciprocate to online targeted content, when compared to older age groups, who tend to make their decisions based on party, personality, caste, benefit, or sometimes, because the rest of the village is backing a candidate.
Though both groups have access to the same set of data and information—or misinformation—younger voters tend to react to online campaigns, especially posted by those who are not overtly associated with political parties.
Since political parties have little control over user-generated content (UGC), they have tried to circumvent this by banking on ‘sympathisers’ to push its agenda. Pugalia calls this “UGC with a slant".
“Content created by users not associated with a political party tends to have a bigger impact as it is seen as unbiased," says Naresh Arora, founder, DesignBoxed Creatives, who is a digital strategist designing new-age political campaigns. But depending on social media could be tricky as there are few filters to check the flow of fake news making it that much harder for digital political strategists. UGC depends on free platforms and tools, but those who have made this a full time profession have to find ways to monetize to survive beyond the polls.
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