Vijay Mukhi: Why the BJP is wrong in wanting to be aggressive on the Social Web

21 Aug,2013


PoliTech / By Vijay Mukhi


Last week, the BJP had a major briefing of its media cells from all over the country which was addressed by the party top brass. The advice they were wrongly given was told to ‘swamp the social web’ and also be ‘aggressive’ . A extremely bad idea in my view. For some vague reason we believe in the myth that to spread your message on the social web, you have to be aggressive and like Rambo, go out all guns blazing. The social web is not like primetime TV where you are encouraged to shout and scream and interrupt others. Nothing could be further than the truth. The social web respects good behaviour and we normally highlight only a very small part of the social web which does not reflect on the majority behaviour. Let’s look at some real numbersto substantiate why the meek shall inherit the social web. Let’s start with Twitter and then move to Facebook.


The only way to judge the popularity of a tweet and not that of its owner is to see how many people retweet it. There is no other objective way of determining the popularity of a tweet. An indirect metric about the popularity of your tweets would be that if people like your tweets they would follow you or tweet about you and may not always retweet your tweets. Let’s look at what types of tweets get retweeted from India and created by Indians only. We are not looking at tweets that you retweet, that is. those that start with RT @, which are obviously tweets written by others that you like.


The No 1 and 2 position on this list is taken up by our silent cricket captain M S Dhoni with around 9900 retweets followed by Shah Rukh Khan at the next three places. The first politician on this list is Narendra Modi at No 9 with around 3000 retweets. Mr Modi bags a total of only six places in our list and the only other politician he has for company is Subramanian Swamy, that also only once. To be on the top 100 list, all that we need is our tweet to be retweeted 1278 times, not very difficult to get 1300 followers to retweet your tweet. But even that our politicians’ followers cannot manage. Bad showing for the political community on Twitter!


The other big Twitter politician Shashi Tharoor simply does not figure on this list unlike the big film stars who make too much of an impression and dominate our list. Shah Rukh Khan is the real badshah of Twitter retweets. Thus we can be sure that being mentioned on Twitter a lot or having zillions  of followers do not get your tweets retweeted at all which means that not enough people are getting access to your tweets. The bigger story is what types of tweets get retweeted.


First, none of these tweets contain any aggression in any form whatsoever. All these tweets said nothing controversial, used no sexual overtones, used the queen’s English and were something you could share with your family. If you were a [olitician who wanted his/her tweet to be retweeted, what is the first lesson you would have learned. Please do not cross the line of decency on Twitter, it is not a line drawn in sand but in concrete. The Twitter world would not like to be associated with heat, noise and thunder, so stay away from all forms of aggressiveness if you want your tweet to go viral. If you want to promote Mr Modi, please do so, but do not use any aggressive behaviour of any form, the tweet will not go viral it will only create a backlash against Mr Modi.


Only if the Social Media cell of the BJP looked at the list of the top 100 retweets out of India, they would have not given their media cells advice that they gave.


It is a big mistake on the part of the larger media that says that if you shout on Twitter and be loud, you will be heard and retweeted and you will go viral. An analysis of the retweets out of India  shows that decency and dignity go a long way on Twitter.


What should bother the politician most about Twitter is that the tweets that get retweeted have very little political content. Those tweets of Mr Modi that do get retweeted and are political in nature simply have not fired the imagination of his supporters. The idea of a Politician to be on Twitter is to get the message out and the only way is to make your tweets go viral. A Modi tweet that gets retweeted 4000 times does not spread the message at all. It’s cold consolation that Mr Tharoor also does not fare any better. My belief is that Mr Modi and the others of his ilk may get someone else to write his speech, but he says it on stage. On Twitter I believe someone else writes his tweets and he does not know or seem to care why his political tweets do not get retweeted.


The media in India has a fascination for Twitter but does not seem to realise that Facebook is by larger and dwarfs Twitter in size and influence. Facebook is a more visual image and words do not sell on Facebook but images do. For proof of this let’s look at the Top 100 hundred likes for Facebook posts out of India. A like is the most important concept in Facebook and is used a lot, you like a Facebook post, you like a Facebook page etc.


We do three things on a Facebook status update, we add a picture a video or plain words. And guess what?! 99% of status updates that were liked were pictures and Videos and only 1% used words. This makes it very clear that Facebook is a visual medium for likes and all the writers have fled to Twitter. Pictures sell on Facebook not words. We do not use Facebook to have long discussions, as Facebook is simply not structured for engaging people in a debate on any issue. Politicians do not figure in the list of likes at all.


On the other hand, if you want people to share with others what you have posted, then you do not have to change tack a lot. Here once again text does not rule but pictures do. Only 3% of the Top 100 in the category of sharing goes to text updates. Unfortunately, the only politician on this list is Mr Modi, he comes in at a lowly 49 and appears 3 times. The big question that needs to be asked is that if for Twitter, politician were sort of around, they are totally missing in action on Facebook.


With text you can be aggressive, with pictures what sells are stuff that looks pleasing to eye, that appeal to the senses and this is why film stars win on Facebook. Salman Khan with 2 dogs is what people like but at the same time people like more than they share on Facebook. See the pictures that made the list and tell me one that you found aggressive or offensive. None of them were there to garner attention of make a point, low key also wins on Facebook.


The world learnt just one big thing from the Obama e-cmapaign. The best way to win the social web elections is by getting people to share your message to others. On TV, all content is created so that I do not use my remote, TV content tries to make my remote disappear. On the other hand, on the social web, there is no remote, a mouse or a finger is always within reach. The core idea on the social web is can I get the user to share my email, my tweet, my post. If I can, then I have a winner. This means that please do not send me an email every month with your picture 10 times telling me what you do, content like this puts me off and I will never click on Forward. I will not participate in spreading your message out. Give me content that I can share with  my friends, my followers, my -mail contacts, etc and you have a viral effect.


As a columnist, I love reading comments, tells me that someone is reading. What I do not understand is people calling me names without any reasoning. What the BJP should have told its media heads last week was to weed out these aggressive followers of theirs on the social web who do get loud, aggressive, abusive , etc , etc. Even expel them if need be. If the BJP wants to win the social web elections, these people must go or else the Congress comes out on top.


Post a Comment 

One response to “Vijay Mukhi: Why the BJP is wrong in wanting to be aggressive on the Social Web”

  1. Vivek says:

    Hi Vijay,

    While you are right on Social media trends, you are wrong on two accounts. (1) BJP is fighting with Shahrukh and Salman on Social media (2) The Social media trends applicable in Western part of the world is applicable here.

    1. BJP wants to get more middle class votes and not fighting for #1 Social media spot in India, but India’s #1 political campaign on Social media. That is niche space and they are the #1 in that space.
    2. If I go through re-share from my friends in India, this Modi for PM and Subramaniam Swamy captures most space. The allegations presented in aggessive tones and phrases keep coming back through different friends even after I blocked many friends who shared those earlier. At least in the “Indian techie” group, the aggressive campaign finds significant re-share, much more than Shahrukh and likes find.
    How much these campaign can get is a question that cannot be answered without a proper study – probably BJP has done it. However it became socially challenging difficult NOT to endorse Modi for PM campaign, and call Congress the names when you are amongst friends and colleagues. That may be social intimidation, but when the people, who did not endorse Modi for PM originally, do so now. This shows that the campaign is successful.

Today's Top Stories