With Twitter officials hobnobbing with political parties and Facebook jumping into the election action, social media is getting hotter as the general elections approach. While the Congress is reportedly going to spend a few crores on social media, Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition party has built up an online volunteer network of thousands of supporters. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, known to make innovative use of technology in election campaigning, also has online volunteers helping him gain visibility among the tech savvy crowd. “We have done enough work in urban centers. For instance, in Bangalore alone we have 19,000 IT volunteers,” Amresh K, Co-Convener, IT Cell of BJP told NextBigWhat in an interview. The idea is to go deeper into the electorate with the help of volunteers, he says. Edited Excerpts.
Now that the elections are round the corner, what is BJP’s social media strategy?
Social media has gone viral now. There is nothing left to be touched especially in metros and urban cities where we have done a lot of work. We have reached the ward level now. We have engaged with them and taught them how Facebook can be used and how it can be used for campaigning.
We have identified a team in every district. We have a ward level unit for social media. It is now high time we went offline. If you see, large number of people aren’t touched by social media. How do you reach the unreached? Once they are active, they have to watch what we are doing. The only target is to get to offline activity.
We are helping people who aren’t equipped by training them.
We are also targeting information technology professionals, making them responsible citizens by involving them in social causes. Like for instance, voter identification registration. If you see, the urban class don’t come to cast their votes. How do you create a platform so that people can who don’t have a voter id card, can take services from our side. We are also collaborating with government institutions to help them.
Also, we are not claiming that we are the best. We are saying, you have to choose and these are the reasons you should be voting for us. We are making them aware what we are up to. They also have a reason to identify with us. Especially in the IT sector, where jobs are not stable these days, they have a reason to be part of our cause.
What are the planned activities?
In the last year or so, we have been engaging the corporate world. They have been very helpful. Our voter id registration drive was very successful. We have done enough work in Bangalore, where we have more than 19,000 IT volunteers. Now we are making small groups and taking them to smaller groups. We are going house to house and making them aware of the BJP’s achievements.
What tools do you use on social media?
Everything. Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube, websites, blogs and everything that is available.
We have categorized the volunteers. If someone is good at blogging, or likes to dig up scams or documents and upload it to the web, we let them do it. We have enough resources to leverage Twitter’s 140 characters to the book.
Do you plan to advertise on social media sites?
No. BJP always believes in mouth to mouth references. We usually don’t get into marketing. We keep it to volunteers.
But BJP advertises on newspapers and offline media..
That is the party perspective. If the party has any policies, or decision making, or projects to publicize, the state BJP will take care of. This is completely voluntary. We don’t even take fuel charges from the party. We spread the message from within. Most of them are also working professionals.
How is the organisation structured?
From every district we have a team. They are called conveners. I was the state convener from Karnataka. I’ve been promoted as a national co-convener. We oversee some of these initiatives. I’m the South India in charge for Modiji now.
There was a separate campaign for Mr Modi..
That is being run from our side only. Earlier it was a separate one, it has been merged now.
Now there will be only one team?