We interviewed Ankit Lal, the national council member and IT admin, Aam Aadmi Party, on the social media strategies of the political party. He outlines the parties approach on trolling, becoming insanely popular and engaging with the community as a mission to build clean politics in the country.
AAP has taken the social media by storm in recent times. What was your approach to your social media strategy?
The approach can be defined in a single word, ‘Engagement’. We engaged with people, answered their queries and participated in conversations with them.
AAP is finding popularity amongst the first time voters. How crucial was social media in this context?
Majority of youngsters are either active on Social Media or spend most of their day with people who are active on Social Media. Identifying their issues, educating them about issues, talking about these issues and engaging with them helped AAP a lot in becoming popular among the youth.
What is your opinion on the political abuses and trolling that is highly prevalent on social media?
The line between questioning and trolling is very thin. Democracy gives us the privilege to voice our difference of opinion but those who question should know where to draw the line. Getting into people’s personal lives and abusing should be a strict no-no. But at the same time, trolling should not become an excuse to stop people from using their ‘right to dissent’.
Are you surprised by the fan following you have received in such a short span of time? What would you attribute this success to?
Not surprised but happy for sure. This success is not due to any single reason but the major ones are our different approach to issues, striking a chord with people and last but not the least, dedicated volunteers, both online and on ground.
No one platform can be said to be most or least effective as each Social Media platform has its own utility. Facebook is more useful for broadcast while Twitter is more useful in getting public attention on a certain issue and conversing with them on it.
How do you go about engaging with your community on social media?
We keep a tab on what people are talking about and try to start conversations around those topics. We also initiate our own topics, educate people about them and then ask from their opinion. We also do a lot of volunteer and collaborative videos to keep the conversation alive.
Can you share a ball-park figure on how much you spent on social media during the election season?
Ours was a ‘0’ budget campaign. Entirely organic and volunteer driven.
Do you monitor the various views/opinions/suggestions that people put across to you on various platforms? What do you once you receive them?
We do monitor views, opinions and suggestions. Any worthwhile suggestion is forwarded to the decision making bodies within the party and we also give regular sentiment analysis to the leadership on various issues.
With every passing day, AAP is garnering more and more support. What social media activities you undertake on a daily or weekly basis in order to voice your agenda?
On daily basis we pick up issues pertaining to the common man and post information about it with engaging content in Hindi and English. On weekly basis we do review of past weeks performance and try to identify improvement areas.
In your opinion, how well has AAP been able to strike a chord with the people on social media?
AAP has struck the chord quite well with people on Social Media because it raised issues pertaining to the common people.
How different is your social media strategy from your competitors?
We kept our communication channels open for two way communication unlike other parties where it is mostly one way. We also had a strict no-abuse policy and we did not question people without evidence. All that added to our credibility.
Have you been as active on social media after the elections as much as during them?
The frequency of posts has gone down for sure but not the intensity and level of conversation. This is mainly because more political events were taking place during the election campaign that post it.
How effective is social media a platform for campaigning in the run-up to elections?
Social Media is a very effective tool as it helps a party in understanding public sentiment as well as responding to that.
Can you list out some of the major differences between traditional campaigning methods and campaigning on social media?
The AAP campaign was entirely volunteer driven and crowd sourced with no agency being involved. Other parties had to hire firms for the same.
What efforts you intend to undertake in the near future in order to boost your already active social media presence?
We are trying to engage with more people and sign up more volunteers for our Social Media efforts.
Your party has also drawn a lot of flak from its critics who have gone out all open on social media. How do you respond to them using the same platform?
We ignore those who abuse or ask absurd/meaningless questions but we try and reply to all genuine queries. Once in a while we run campaigns to dispel the lies being spread against us.
Did your party happen to be on social media just by chance or it really identified the potential of this medium and jumped into the race accordingly?
We had been using Social Media since the time of IAC and understood its potential.
Which medium has helped you more to connect more with people : TV, print or social media?
Social Media of course as we didn’t have the kind of money needed for TV or print marketing.
Do you leverage influencers on social media to help propagate your voice on social media?
Yes we do identify and leverage influencers who talk about topics relevant for us.