Hashtag #OperationBlueVirus is already trending at the top of India Twitter Trends. If you are not aware of the latest operation, don’t worry this isn’t a undercover mission by Indian Army but another sting operation from Cobra Post. Browse through some tweets and you would get to know the story.
According to the latest sting operation, Cobra Post has exposed the underbelly of social media. In short the undercover operation was done to reveal how social media agencies are working day and night to buy fake followers, remove negative sentiments of opposition, post content from different foreign locations and so on and so forth. In doing so Cobrapost has uncovered about two dozen such companies which are running this shady business of social media brand building and online reputation management.
Was the operation worth it? Is CobraPost telling us something new about the social media industry? Well nothing new, its the same old story of fan buying that used to happen in the offline world till a few years back now. A practice that has been rampant and will keep growing.
Trait of olden days of fan buying
I was born in the land that used to breathe Marxism. I have had friends who used to work on small jobs thanks to the local party and in return they took a commission every month and also forced all the staff to be part of the rallies. This was the case not only in my state but more or less everywhere in India. Party men bought truck loads of people just to be there and clap during the politician’s speech. In return men used to get local liquor and women might get some rice and pulses.
The trend has been rampant for so many years and will be there till the next few generations. Along with this we have seen rampant opinion polls that have been running on each channel and each of them have their own version. I am not counting the other known modes of paid media. All this will have a new company in the coming 2014 general elections – Social Media. The medium that has given the powers to the common man for the first time, will form a bigger pie in the promotion and marketing strategy of political parties. In fact it is already out there.
New ways of fan buying
[pullquote id=”lhipull” class=”left_pull”]We want a Facebook, Twitter, Blog and a social media presence like Narendra Modi.[/pullquote]
Social Media has been debated and politicians have vehemently said that the medium won’t influence voters. The reasoning still quite evident is that the Facebook people who like won’t come and vote. True! But whether you are there or not you are being talked about, your opponent is creating controversies and maligning your reputation. It took time to get this into the old brains. Today the scenario is that every political party wants to have a Facebook and Twitter page and at the same time they also want a social media fan following like the Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi. A thought that was recently shared with me by a regional party supporter, who had approached us thinking that we are a social media agency.
Narendra Modi, social media and bots
One can’t deny the fact that BJP and specially Narendra Modi have shown great interest for technology and social media adoption. The controversial politician started investing on the medium when other politicians were still in the world of having a website and debating the need to be social.
Today he not only has a social media presence that is commendable but has got an army of supporters who are there 24*7 working for him.
At the same time Congress party had an on-off relationship with social media. The party was against social media for a long time but today not only does it have hoards of social media warriors stationed online to fight any BJP propaganda but is also doing major investments on training party workers on social and digital. Both parties today are competing at all fronts including social media.
But then time and gain Narendra Modi has been criticized for building a fake fan following on social media. There have been reports of him having fake followers on Twitter. Journalists, who have no clue about social media, had one subject to fill their columns - will social media influence 2014 elections and Narendra Modi’s good presence on social media has all bots.
But then no one analyzed how many fake followers other political leaders have? No one questioned why they were popular in some under developed European country. We reported two such stories that state clearly that fan/follower buying is a practice that has been adopted by all then why point fingers on only one politician.
A trend that will only grow
Do a simple Google Search on “Facebook Fans” or “Twitter Followers” and the first page will have multiple links that are ready to sell fake followers for cheap prices. The practice has been tried initially by brands to build their fan base and now it is being done by political parties. This is going to grow with fake followers, fake videos being uploaded on YouTube and fake trends being trended. We have seen all this happening in offline world in different forms, now we would see them happening online too as the youth is spending more time on the internet.
Every technology has a bad side, social media has it too. But the difference is that the medium is ruled and governed by people like us. Today the netizens are much smarter and they easily know what to consume and what to discard. You can build a million strong social media presence by buying fake people but then they are not going to see engagement unless you are not going to invest time and money. Sorry Cobra Post bots don’t engage on a regular basis.
Good try Cobrapost with #OperationBlueVirus but then the malpractices on online are not only being done by BJP but all other parties are doing too. So next time you do an operation on exposing the underbelly of social media, do it comprehensively for all the major parties in the country.
Until then it is really not real life reporting, sorry!
Image credit: recaption.com