Overview: Why and how social media worked for PM Modi?


As the Narendra Modi-led NDA government began to celebrate its one year anniversary, Twitter flooded with posts trending with the hashtag ‘SaalEkShuruaatAnek’ (One Year, Many Initiatives). It was pushed forward by PM Modi who encouraged people to share their thoughts using the above mentioned hashtag and in return, they would receive a personal message from the PM himself. Engaging, isn’t it?

This might be the latest, but is certainly not the only time Narendra Modi has used social media to enhance the outreach of his narrative. Since he joined Twitter in January 2009, PM Modi has paved a new way for politicians seeking to do well on social media thereby extracting the much-needed electoral mileage.

Whether the ‘followers’ converted into ‘voters’ or not isn’t an important question. The important question is how Modi captured popular imagination of these followers to his advantage.

Social media platforms which were always under the scrutiny of censorship ironically came to be used as an important tool during India’s 2014 elections for political promotion and expression. Even though the first major campaign, “Ab Ki Baar Modi Sarkar” began on print and television, it was well received on social media. With posts ranging from satirical rhymes by social media users to promotional rhymes by Modi’s team, the slogan ‘Ab Ki Baar Modi Sarkar’ went viral over the web space.

If we look at raw figures, Modi ranks second after U.S. President Barack Obama in number of likes on his official Facebook page, 28 million and counting. Modi’s Facebook content management is usually integrated with ground events, including personal pictures and posts. For instance, the photo of Modi meeting film star Rajnikanth received around 2.2 million likes on Facebook alone.

Talking about facts, now would be a good time to mention that Narendra Modi was the first Indian politician to join Google+.

The key is being active on social media platforms and continuously serving the audience something new. The BJP’s official Facebook page organized a massive mobilization drive by introducing the India 272+ volunteering program, under which crowd-sourcing is done through open forums and threads and the volunteer’s inputs became a part of Modi’s speeches, according to Narendra Modi’s official website. All the policies of BJP get a considerable amount of space in the official pages and social media handles.

The brand NaMo was built over time and sure, the maximum following is by Indian followers and fans but there is a huge international fandom that keeps an eye on India’s PM as well. This is not just because of catchy slogans and fancy posts, but because of the usage of not-so-traditional media outlets by a political leader for political campaigning. This is the reason why all pf the bilateral visits made by PM trend with specific hashtags such as #ModiInAmerica.

Earlier this month, Modi joined the Chinese social media platform Weibo, which is considered the Twitter of China. Later, he clicked a selfie with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and posted it on his Weibo account. The account has got over 31 million views within weeks.

Modi’s social media team scrawls hashtags and trending posts on boards and converts old school press releases into viral online posts. They know their target audience well enough to understand what they would like to hear, read and watch. The messages are altered keeping this constituency in mind. Arvind Gupta, the head of BJP’s digital operations told Wall Street Journal, “We use data to decide if our message needs to change, if a sound bite needs to be given to shape the ecosystem.”

As Peter Drucker, the American management consultant once said, “Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.” This can be seen very well in the light of Modi’s social media success. An effective branding plan and the usage of an unconventional medium set him apart, the rest is just politics being political.