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Why Congress’ High Social Media Reach Fails to Translate into Ground Support for Election 2024?

Engagement via social media can amplify echo chambers, where users are exposed primarily to content that reinforces their existing beliefs.

In today’s digital age, the high social media reach of a political party is often misconstrued as an indicator of widespread ground support. However, this assumption can be misleading, as evidenced by the experiences of India’s major political parties, the the Indian National Congress (Congress) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Recently, Congress’s social media head Supriya Shrinate claimed that her party’s social media reach has surpassed that of the BJP. She even presented data demonstrating the party’s dominance on major platforms including YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

According to Shrinate, data collected between March and May, Congress achieved 613 million views on YouTube, Facebook reach climbed from 50 million to 105 million, Twitter impressions surged from 117 million to 128 million, YouTube views increased from 80 million to 233 million, and Instagram reach expanded from 78 million to 154 million. 

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The party’s followers are using this surging social media popularity as evidence enough that all 2024 election exit polls are factually wrong and the INDI Alliance will win 295+ seats thus making Rahul Gandhi the new Prime Minister of India.

However, political pundits are not satisfied with mere social media numbers to predict a political party’s win in any election. Several factual reasons underline why social media popularity does not necessarily translate into electoral success or genuine grassroots support.

The demographics of social media users do not accurately represent the entire voting population. Jai Bharadwaj, the founder of The Australia Today, says “Social media engagement can be artificially inflated.”

This includes the use of bots, fake accounts, and coordinated online activities to amplify their message and influence public opinion.”

Jai Bharadwaj says that many social media influencers and political parties around the world have been allegedly accused of using bots and paid followers to boost their online presence.

“This artificially enhanced reach creates an illusion of widespread support that may not reflect the actual sentiment on the ground,”

he adds.

Such tactics highlight the growing trend of political parties globally turning to sophisticated digital strategies to shape electoral narratives, raising concerns about the authenticity of online political discourse and its impact on democracy.

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In India, despite the impressive use of social media campaigns, it has been the traditional, door-to-door canvassing and grassroots mobilisation that has played a crucial role in most electoral victories.

Sanjeev Singh, author of The Online Effect: Decoding X to Predict Election Results, says: “No doubt social media is an important tool to engage with oneโ€™s audience but a cohesive campaign strategy aligns your social media efforts with on-ground activities and ensures that messages and goals are consistent across all platforms.”

Singh believes that social media is a powerful tool, but it cannot replace the need for a genuine connection with the electorate.

“Parties can leverage real-time interactions on social media to drive participation in on-ground activities. Encourage on-ground participants to share their experiences on social media, creating a cycle of engagement that amplifies both channels,” he adds.

Moreover, engagement via social media can amplify echo chambers, where users are exposed primarily to content that reinforces their existing beliefs. This can create a skewed perception of a party’s popularity.

For example, the BJP’s sophisticated use of targeted messaging and WhatsApp groups has created a strong online presence, yet this does not always translate to broader acceptance, as seen in some state elections where the party faced defeat despite their robust online campaigns.

In my opinion, social media reach can often prioritise sensationalism over substantive policy discussions. While online strategies may effectively highlight their achievements and attack the opposition, these do not always address the nuanced and localised issues that concern voters.

The Congress may have found success through social media alliances but at the grassroots level has failed to address issue-based politics that resonate more directly with Indian votersโ€™ daily lives.

Sanjeev Singh advises all political parties: “Balancing social media engagement and on-ground campaign activities requires strategic planning, consistent messaging, and integrated measurement tools.”

“The key is not to view digital and physical efforts as separate entities but as complementary components of a unified strategy.”

What we see is that while a high social media reach can enhance visibility and influence narratives, it does not guarantee ground support or electoral success. The BJP and Congressโ€™s experiences illustrate that authentic voter engagement, understanding local issues, and effective on-the-ground campaigning are indispensable for true political support.

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