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Political Communication In Digital Age Social Media Analysis

Paper Presented at na|icna| scninar cn Sccia| Nc|ucr|ing Mcdia 8ccn cr 8anc? crganizcd cn
Marcn 7-8, 2014 by Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Shri Dharmasthala
Manjunatheshwara College, Ujire, D.K. District, Karnataka, India
Abstract
In the age of digital world, social media are said to have an impact on the public sphere
and communication in the society. Especially social media have been extensively using in
political context. Popular social network sites like Facebook and Twitter are believed to have the
potential for increasing political participation. While, microblogging site Twitter is an ideal
platform for political institutions to spread not only information in general but also political
opinions publicly through their networks. Political institutions, politicians, political foundations,
etc. have also begun to use Facebook pages or community groups for the purpose of entering into
direct dialogs with citizens and encouraging more political discussions.
The study aims to examine the extent use of social media by the political parties to
promote their image and political messages, among their supporters and peoples in social
networking sites. The study intends to examine the efforts of social media use pattern and
similarities in support for parties in the real world, relative to the virtual environment.
Keywords: Social media, online political communication, Social media analysis, political
parties, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube
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Mr. Vijaykumar Meti is a Ph.D Research Scholar in the Department of Journalism & Mass
Communication at Gulbarga University, Gulabarga, Karnataka, India. E-Mail:
vijaymeti007@gmail.com Mobile: 9739973222

Introduction
The Internet is a sphere that can involve virtually all levels of the political
communications world simultaneously. At the same time, it can embrace the political parties
who are promoting their image and political messages via social networking sites. The social
media has caused major changes in the political communication. They have become a useful
resource often used by the politicians in order to strengthen their visibility. All the new media
resources viz., the websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, etc., of the politicians or the
political parties allow the affirmation of a discursive identity of politicians, contributing to the
customizing of the political discourse. In the past few years, social networking sites have made a
rapid growth of user counts. For example, more than 1.2 billion active users as on September
2013 globally on Facebook and Twitter counts more than 200 million users while Google Plus
has reached more than 540 million users. (Wikipedia).
Social media has emerged as an essential tool of communication and has created new
ways of political mobilizing and encourage social media users in political activities ranging from
joining their political groups by tweeting short messages on Twitter, status update in Facebook,
expressing supports through blogs and uploading videos on YouTube.
Political communication has become a major focus in the growing field of social media
studies. Researchers across the globe analyze political online communication. This analysis aims
to identify how the political parties managed to mobilize social media users by means of the
communicating through social networks sites, blogs and videos on YouTube.
Functions of the Social Media in the Political Communication
In the context of the relationship between the politicians, social media and the public,
identifies the number of functions that the Internet have as follows:
The politicians promote their controlled speech and present their point of view without
being interrupted by the journalists or by the media format limitation, etc.
Social Media the given privilege for the politicians to post a presumptive political
agenda. While nowadays, it has become a common practice for the journalists to get
some statements from Facebook pages of the politicians.
By means of the social media, political parties or politicians can be mobilized the public
and invites them to participate in the discussion on some issues of public interest.
By using the social media tool, politicians and the political parties interacts apparently
with more efficiently with their supporters, beyond the institutional and bureaucratic
rigors.
Social Media in Indian Politics
Social media is playing a considerable new role in Indian democracy. With the changing
politics of India, political parties and politicians have found a new ways of reaching out to a
younger and aspiration population are also changing. At present, political parties are increasingly
embracing social media to encourage the people. It is really a long leap from the times when
politicians were relied mainly on posters, cardboard, cutouts, graffiti, banners and personal
canvassing to win over voters.
However, all of these are still in trend but increasingly, in the urban India, political
parties are becoming tech savvy by understanding this is the only way to reach out the eloquent
youths. Among the major political parties in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP) has the
biggest charisma in social media. The BJP started using the social media even before the 2009
general election, which it lost. But in recent years, the party has dig deeper, several senior leaders
such as Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Narendra Modi and many are on Twitter.
Narendra Modi as the BJPs prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general election has his
own team for his social media management (source: oneindia.in).
Social media has also credited with helping the new Aam Aadmi Party (translation:
Common Man Party) and its candidate, Arvind Kejriwal, won a surprise victory in Delhi against
the Congress and BJP. But social media can also be subject to significant abuse. Some politicians
have been accused of boosting their apparent popularity on social networking sites with legions
of followers who dont exist and of using social media to smear their opponents. Worse, social
media have been used to fan violence against religious and ethnic groups.
Meanwhile, the Indian government has used the 2008 Information Technology
(Amendment) Act to increase monitoring and censorship of social media. Last year, the
government rolled out a Central Monitoring System with vast power to monitor citizens
communications. Human Rights Watch called the new system chilling in its scope. According
to Freedom House, India had the steepest decline in Internet freedom of any country in the year
ending in April 2013.
The Electoral Commission of India has asked social media providers to monitor their
sites for fraud in the run-up to the general elections in April this year. That would be helpful. But
Indian voters must also demand that their government bring transparency and accountability to
electronic surveillance.
Most Active Indian Politicians on Social Networking Sites
With more than half of India's young population, our politicians have now resorted to the
social media to reach out to their young voters. Now, few politicians update their Facebook
accounts almost on a daily basis, and also access Twitter and YouTube regularly.
Narendra Modi is one of the most famous politicians on social media with
approximately 1.3 million followers on his Facebook page. He joined Facebook and Twitter in
2009 and became the first politician to use Google Plus. People are highly responsive towards his
updates by liking, commenting and sharing his updates. He also has a YouTube channel which
has reached the 15,000 mark of subscribers and has more than 1500 videos.
Rahul Gandhi is very interactive on his Facebook page. He has approximately 2.5 lakh
fans on his page. Not only Facebook, he is a very active blog writer too. He writes blogs which
get published for people to know his views on issues.
Shashi Tharoor at times, he was also referred to as the "Twitter minister''. Tharoor might
not have an official page on Facebook but to cover that up, he has almost 15 lakh followers on
Twitter. That count also makes him the most persuasive politician on Twitter. He tweets on latest
happenings in the government, his interviews and incidents taking place in the country.
Sushma Swaraj has made her presence felt on social networking sites very prominently.
Although she might not have an official Facebook page but her following is such that her
community page on Facebook has approximately 95,000 likes. Also, she has more than 3 lakh
followers on Twitter.
Manmohan Singh has an official page on Facebook with more than 3.5 lakh fans. He
tweets frequently and has a dedicated website on which one can find his speeches, press releases,
photos and videos. His Facebook page is updated with latest activities in the government, PM's
conferences and functions.
Conclusion
In the last few years social media have become an important political communication
channel in India and globally. It enables political parties and voters to directly interact with each
other. Therefore, political activities might gain more transparency and citizens might be more
involved into political decision-making processes.
However, until now the potentials of political discussions in social media involving
political parties could not be exploited sufficiently. One reason for that is a lack of knowledge of
politicians about current topics and discourses on different social media platforms. Based on an
extensive literature review, we could observe the increasing relevance and the need for analyzing
political discussions on different social media platforms.
The political parties, which have exploited the benefits of promoting their image and
political messages by means of the social networks, have enjoyed the active participation of their
supporters on Facebook. These ones have initiated discussion groups and online communities,
and have actively supported the efforts of the parties. Beyond this, we must also take into
consideration the fact that regardless of the smaller number of supporters on Facebook compared
to the number of the real voters, the users initiating causes or online discussion groups are very
influential opinion leaders, not only in the online but in the real world as well.
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