[Interview] MP Milind Deora Talks About his Strategies of Using Social Media for Election Campaigning

Milind Deora

As we know, this year’s election is one of the biggest elections of the decade and social media has played a very important role in it. Where the other parties have taken social media as a part of their campaign, there is a candidate who has been using social media from last three and a half years. Not only as a part of their campaign but also to interact with people and has also been successful in it. Though he has been successful in it, he still thinks that nothing can replace the old style of campaigning.

In his interview, MP Mr. Milind Deora tells us about his strategies of using social media as a part of campaigning for political parties and how can youth get attracted towards it.

What made you to choose social media as a communication channel?

I just think that the world is becoming smaller. In the 21st Century, social media has changed the way we communicate. It has the potential to reach out to millions within a fraction of a second compared to traditional media. For me personally, it has helped me put my thoughts out in the public domain and get a direct feedback from people.

As an early adopter of social media in political circles, how has the perception about social media evolved amongst politicians in the last few years?

Estimates suggest that in 2009, there were just 2 million users of Facebook in all of India and an insignificant number on Twitter. By May 2014, there will now be roughly 110 million Facebook users and 15 million Twitter users. These numbers speak a lot! In the last few months, many politicians have joined the social media bandwagon, be it Twitter, Facebook or writing Blogs. With many turning towards this medium tells us about their positive perception towards this new age communication.

Can social media really bring change in our society?

I believe it can. Over the years, many issues have been taken up on social media and kept alive for a long time. One such issue that I can remember is the Delhi gang rape incident. Social media kept the talk going on for a long time and I believe that played a major role in the many people taking notice and acting on it. For me personally, I started @UthSpeak, an apolitical platform where I have already taken up two issues which I have personally advocated for a long time.i.e Directly Elected Mayor through #DMDA and Gender Sensitization through #ProjectBadlaav.

How often social media is discussed in your meetings with your team members? What does such a discussion usually entail?

I have been on social media for the last 3 and half years. Since then, social media has been a very important communication tool for me. This being the election season, I do have a focused social media team which looks into strategizing and execution of the various plans we draw up.

Even though social media is growing, a lot of politicians are yet to adopt it. What could be the reason? How can we make them adopt and use social media effectively?

It does take time for people to adopt something new. As mentioned earlier, a lot of politicians have joined this medium and going forward many would join in.

With elections around the corner, how do you view the political campaigning of your chief competitors (AAP & NDA) on social media?

I have been on social media for the longest as compared to any of my competitors. I have always connected with people irrespective of an election or not. Putting out my last 10 years work has been my strategy and it seems to work really well.

How effective is social media for political campaigning vis-a-vis traditional channels of campaigning?

I believe nothing can replace the age old traditional style of campaigning. Connecting with your voters ‘In Person’ still has a great impact. Even the voters feel good to see their candidate who come down and meet them. As far as social media is concerned, it has helped me to reach out to a huge number of people. Also, a lot of first time voters are easier to reach out to on social media as compared to any other medium.

What is your social media strategy for this year’s general election?

I have been an MP for the last 10 years of South Mumbai. My primary focus on social media has always been to connect with my constituents and which I have been successful at. Taking a step forward, for the upcoming elections

I have crowd sourced my manifesto by running a hashtag #ToDoSoMu where people contributed their ideas to build India’s first interactive constituency focused manifesto.

To tell people about my work my team of have worked on an interactive map which puts out all the work I have done.

It is believed that most social media users are youngsters who hardly go out to vote. In such a scenario, how would you go about encouraging them to vote, especially for you?

The youth have always been early adopters of anything new on the Internet. Social media is one of the best platforms to connect with them. I believe there is a lot of enthusiasm this time around amongst the youth as compared to any of the previous elections. As for voting for me, I think first time voters should look at the parliamentary performance of a candidate and also vote for someone who will carry their voice to the Parliament.

Do you think social media has had an influence on modern day politics? If yes, how has it influenced? If not, why not?

We all know how social media influenced the 2012 elections of the United States and how effectively Barack Obama used it. In India, the 2014 elections will be the first time where social media will be explored to the fullest. Going forward, social media is going to bridge the gap between the Citizens and the Politicians.