“Control technology and you’re on your way to controlling the modern world #PowerfulPeople” was recently tweeted by @Forbes
The use of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook has long been seen by the corporate world to reach global audiences in the most cost-effective way possible. Recently, however, top political figures such as newly appointed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and American president Barack Obama have realized the importance of using personalized digital platforms to attract and communicate with their followers.
For Modi, the emergence of social media as a gate-way to campaigning has allowed him to “bypass traditional Indian outlets” like radio pod-casts. With an increasingly educated young and urban population, India’s internet using population has already reached 243 million according to an article by Times of India. What is remarkable about Modis’ social media mastery,however, according to New York Times journalist Derek Willis is that his American Facebook supporter base of approximately 180,000 exceeds that of even homegrown political candidates and congressmen. Furthermore, Modi uses Twitter exceptionally in tracking his day-to-day adventures abroad. For example, every event on his trip to the USA including dinner with President Obama was exclusively hash tagged “#ModiInAmerica”. Moreover, Twitter has also shed a spotlight on the culturally sensitive side of the diplomat as he tweeted in Japanese on his trip to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
More remarkably, however, the power of social media can be harnessed not only by a political icon but also those who associate themselves with him. A number of American congressmen who visited Modi’s Madison Square Garden event and tweeted about it with pictures and inspirational quotes experienced substantial gains in Twitter followers. Interestingly enough, according to Wall Street Journal nine years ago Modi was denied a US visa and couldn’t attend an Indian American rally scheduled in that exact location. This time, on the other hand, his online popularity corresponded to so much offline attention that he sold out his Madison Square Garden event in late September 2014 within a span of hours.
With a lack of censorship and complete freedom of expression, social media platforms often have a detrimental impact on dictator like political leaders. Andrej Babis, the Czech Republic’s Minister of Finance and Czech Republic’s second richest man with his own funded political party “ANO” is the classic example of a media tycoon. According to the Economist, Mr. Babis finalized his purchased of MAFRA, a publishing house that owns two of the country’s main opinion-making daily newspapers, Lidové noviny and Mladá fronta Dnes early last year. Many believe that Babis seeks to convert his newspapers into direct propaganda arms for his political ambitions. In censoring all negative publicity about himself and his party, Babis carefully avoids the uprising of any opposition. How can he possibly control what is said about him on platforms as liberal and unrestricted as Twitter?
All in all, I believe that the youth of today expect to know more about their leaders not only on a political level but also on a personal level. Social media platforms, therefore, provide the perfect opportunity for political figures to be more transparent about policies but also to connect with individuals.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Rosaura Ochoa.