Lok Sabha elections will start from April 7, 2014. All the major parties that will be testing their luck to have the country’s coveted seat for the next five years will be spending aggressively on marketing as the days come closer. Along with other mediums, social media has seen a lot of investment and this is one of the reasons why the Election Commission also wants to track the medium for spends by political parties.
While it is another debate whether EC would be able to monitor social media spends, political parties along with their social media presence are using WhatsApp for communicating their messages with their fans. Reported earlier by ET, Congress and BJP are already contacting voters through their WhatsApp numbers - WithCongress (8398989898) and Mission 272+ (7820078200) respectively.
What is really interesting to find out is that the world’s most popular messaging app which was recently bought by the world’s biggest social network Facebook for a jaw dropping $19 billion price tag is being used by local cadres to connect to their voters in their area.
WhatsApp, which has more than 40 million active Indian users, has its own benefit when compared to the players like Facebook and Twitter. With WhatsApp being build for mobile the message shared by the cadres not only has more chances to be read by the receiver but is also inexpensive.
Though WhatsApp is yet to create brand pages like other messaging apps like WeChat, Line, WhatsApp’s group feature does the job. So a cadre can download the app, create a group and add all the numbers of the voters on to the group. Thereafter the cadre can send all the messages to the group and engage in a closed and constructive conversation. Receivers who are online will receive instant messages, others would do when they connect to the app. One doesn’t need to invest in ads or boost content in order to gain greater reach as on Facebook.
While WhatsApp provides the flexibility of conversing with smaller groups, right now since there is no facility of ads, not many would be aware of the service. However, parties are updating the WhatsApp presence on social media and even via offline channels. Besides this the messaging app works only on smartphones and with 81% of Indians still on feature phones, this could be a hindrance along with costly data packages.
Nevertheless, in last quarter of 2013, India was tagged as the worlds fastest growing smartphone market and data packs are getting cheaper too.
WhatsApp has been one of the essential apps since last year. Last year ET had reported that during the Assembly election in Chhattisgarh, BJP had been aggressively using social networks like Facebook and Twitter, WhatsApp was also used quite extensively.
The head of BJP’s Information Technology Cell, Deepak Maske had informed that since Twitter’s presence in Chattisgarh was marginal, the party focused on Facebook and Whatsapp in urban areas, while in remote areas of Bastar and Surguja in North Chhattisgarh, where Internet is not available, voice calls were used to reach young voters.
Mobile messaging apps are the new social networks in the mobile first world. India, which is now steadily transforming into a smartphone nation, will have apps like WhatsApp driving a lot of the marketing initiatives before this year’s election.
WhatsApp could possibly become a great marketing tool when a majority of parties understand the power of mobile. Till then it will serve the political parties during the last 48 hours when offline campaigning will be stopped by the EC as a rule.
Technology is finally revolutionizing elections.