Thursday, March 12, 2009

Catching them Young...

They need to catch them young. So, the political parties are trying hard to catch the youth online. I got a chance to go through a survey that was done by a company here in Bangalore.

It all started when Obama created history in the US by winning the election, that too attracting more than 67% of them online to check the details of the campaign. Even one of the major announcements by Obama during the campaigning process was online it seems. That sounds too far away for us. That’s not because we are computer illiterates. That’s majorly since our political parties are not ready for such a battle online. The election process is underway and the campaigning is already in full swing all across the country.

BJP has in fact tried to replicate what Obama had tried and tested there in the US. He had in turn succeeded, but BJP doesn’t seem to be in the same place. May be because the party has tried it, and not done a good job in that. It would have fared better if it had replicated it, if not bettering it in its implementation.

Here is how it is going with BJP. The party’s or the NDA’s Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani’s website advertisements are present in almost all the major websites and blogs from India. They are so well publicised there and the online users are logging in according to the survey. But they don’t seem to be very impressed with the way the things have been put there. Is this because of the age factor? Is this since the online crowd is usually around 15-35 and they don’t relate to a politician of around 81 years? May not be, thinks the CEO of Buzzgain, the company that has tracked the way more than 1.2 million Indian bloggers have been talking about politics. ‘It’s got nothing to do with the age, rather it depends on how well you communicate with the online brigade. Are you listening to them? Are you reacting to what they are talking about you online? Is the candidate replying to the questions posed to him online? These factors determine how you are accepted there’ Mukund Mohan, CEO, Buzzgain says.

Well, thats exactly what I was talking about. There is a thin line between copying something or just blindly following just because it has worked for someone. Even if one copies someone’s idea, the possibility of it working for them is there. But not there when one just does it and does for the heck of it. But it is too early to comment on all that. May be this will work for the party and L K Advani in the long run or in the manner in which it will strengthen what the online Indian thinks about them. But, right now things are not very good for them.

One more thing that intrigued me is that the Indian online brigade does not really want to be politically active. They might talk about it or not, they are not as active as their counterparts in the US. The number of people in the US want to discuss or debate politics is more. May be Advani’s ideas wont work because of this factor. Or even the low internet penetration in the country, which still hovers between 5-10% of the population could be a reason.

But, a crowd of more than 43 million, that is young and active online is a very important bit to talk to.

 The way the political leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh are present online is ignorable. Rather, they have some websites which are inferior in quality and may not work for them at all. They look more like basic HTML pages while their BJP counterparts have already spent quite a lot for the looks and feel of a 2.0 website.

Mukund Mohan adds one more point, and he has a point, ‘What we see is that it is more effective when anyone gets the opinion from who he knows. So, if a third person comes and tells you to vote for him, it is unlikely that you will take it up.’

Last general elections saw the foray of new trend in politics, sending SMSes asking for votes. This time Obama factor has made the parties here trying to catch up with the online brigade. But, my thinking is that, various issues like lower internet penetration, less inclination by the online users towards politics might dent the plans by the parties. Yet, the days to come will have some interesting battles to see online.

(A company into the analysis of online trends, Buzzgain has come out with a survey that shows how the online India is talking politics. Over 1.2 million blogs, microblogs and news sources gave a picture as to what the online India is talking. The highlights of the survey:

  • L K Advani scores over others in terms of site visit.
  • Congress takes the cake in terms of Voice of the online community.
  • Youth not sure of which party to vote.
  • P Chidambaram is favorite than Rahul Gandhi.)



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