RJD Is Social Media ‘Winner’. But Will This Trend Influence Votes?

Tejashwi is ahead of Nitish on engagement rates, and on many parameters, he is ahead of the CM + Deputy CM combined.

Updated
Opinion
5 min read
Image of Bihar map and social media symbols used for representational purposes.
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Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives – so much so that it is all but impossible to imagine everyday life without it. We consume news on social media, stay connected with our friends and family, and we even shop via social media.

Social media is also increasingly playing a key role in elections. Political parties and leaders are using it in a big way to communicate with voters, disseminate their manifesto points, attack the opposition, propagate their agenda and influence the voting behaviour of people.

Youth Comprise 51% Of Bihar’s Voting Population: What This Means

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, the campaigning rules announced by the Election Commission this time have brought virtual campaigns in Bihar to the centre stage. A ‘digital politics’ strategy has been employed by major parties in the state, including conservative ones like RJD and JDU.

The RJD has ramped up its social media infrastructure, with a bolstered IT cell, volunteers, verified accounts, influencers, etc.

Bihar has 6.2 crore mobile phone users, out of which 3.93 crore are internet users. A targeted Facebook in Bihar can reach up to 1.5 crore people, roughly 21 percent of the total voter base. In Patna, the capital city, the number of Facebook users is estimated to be around 30 lakhs.

Add to this fact that the youth (18-39 age bracket) account for 51 percent of the voting population in the state. Keeping this in mind, all parties have deployed social and digital media strategies.

Centralised content teams are pushing state-specific matter to their cadre in each seat. The fake news factories are also working non-stop, alongside.

Candidates have also hired agencies to manage their social media accounts. These teams prepare local / hyper local content which is for distribution in their specific seat. Website of party / candidate and their profile pages have been refurbished to give them a new look.

Digital marketing teams have been hired to mobilise voters, engage young people, raise money (crowdsourcing), support grassroots ground operations (volunteer networks) and on-board an army of influencers.

Nitish Vs Tejashwi On Social Media

Nitish Kumar is the third most followed CM on Twitter. Here’s how Nitish fares on social media, as compared to contended Tejashwi Yadav:

  • Tejashwi witnessed a higher increase in followers than Nitish in October
  • Interactions per tweet of Tejashwi is 5 times that of Nitish
  • Tejashwi’s number of interactions per 1000 followers is 10x that of Nitish
  • The sum of his interactions is 4 times that of Nitish
  • All this despite a lower number of tweets, and less than half the followers Nitish has

The number of Twitter users in India is low at 1.7 crore, just 6 percent of Facebook users. This means in Bihar there could be just 9 lakh Twitter users – which is paltry. So, an advantage on Twitter may not reap much electoral dividends for Tejashwi.

Twitter is primarily being used to create a buzz in the media, and Tejashwi’s high engagement rates have helped him gain print, electronic and digital media traction, and get a good share of voices despite lesser resources than the ruling combine.

Bihar Elections: Political Trends On Facebook

Facebook has a much higher reach as compared to other social media platforms, and is an effective tool to influence the voting preferences of the youth and first time voters. A comparison of the profiles of these leaders and their activity on Facebook shows the following trends:

  • In terms of fans, both pages have almost the same following
  • Tejashwi witnessed a higher increase in followers than Nitish in October
  • He scores way above Nitish in engagement ratios – shares (15x), comments (2.6x), reactions (8.3x)
  • In terms of the number of posts, it’s almost the same
  • Tejashwi’s number of interactions per 1000 followers is almost 8x of Nitish’s
  • Shares of promoted posts is higher in Nitish’s case – but it is not achieving the desired results due to the efficiency ratio being lower than Tejashwi’s; this highlights the perils of inaccurate micro-targeting

A sentiment analysis of interactions as per India Today shows a comparatively positive sentiment for interactions on Tejashwi’s page and negative on Nitish’s page:

  • Number of ‘likes’ for Tejashwi is 9x that of Nitish
  • Number of ‘angry’ reactions for Nitish is 2x that of Tejashwi

Tejashwi’s better presence on Facebook and higher engagement is drawing youth to his poll promises related to unemployment and job creation. This could be one of the prime reasons behind the huge crowds in his rallies. These rallies are being aggressively promoted through social media handles.

‘BJP vs RJD vs JDU’ on Social Media

When we compare the activity of the three main parties on social media, similar trends are visible. RJD, despite making lower posts on Facebook (301) than JDU (441) and BJP (620) in the last month, is ahead in terms of engagement rates (reactions, comments, interactions).

On Twitter again, despite fewer tweets, the likes it recorded on its posts in the last month have been higher than JDU and BJP combined. On re-tweets though, the BJP is ahead. On Twitter, the RJD has almost twice the number of followers as BJP.

Twitter Trends

RJD Is Social Media ‘Winner’. But Will This Trend Influence Votes?
(Credit: Amitabh Tiwari)

What Google Trends Reveal

Tejashwi, who was lagging behind on Google Trends, with Nitish leading the way, is seen catching up – and in fact, over the last week or so, he has outdone him on Google search.

The BJP, which may be working behind the scenes to topple Nitish after the polls, doesn’t have encouraging numbers for Deputy CM Sushil Modi, who is trailing.

RJD Is Social Media ‘Winner’. But Will This Trend Influence Votes?
(Credit: Amitabh Tiwari)

It’s a neck and neck battle between NDA (BJP + JDU) and MGB (RJD + INC) as far as Google Trends are concerned. It shows that BJP could emerge as the single largest party, followed by RJD – Numbers 1 & 2 position – in interest over time (last 30 days in Bihar).

RJD Is Social Media ‘Winner’. But Will This Trend Influence Votes?
(Credit: Amitabh Tiwari)

To sum up, the RJD is giving BJP – the ‘pioneer’ of election social media use in India – a run for its money in the Bihar elections, as far as social media engagement is concerned. Tejashwi is way ahead of Nitish on engagement rates, and on many parameters he is ahead of the CM and Deputy CM Sushil Modi combined.

It remains to be seen if this support translates into votes, and how much influence it has on electoral results.

(The author is an independent political commentator and can be reached at @politicalbaaba. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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