General Elections in India - Canvassing Digital Style

The US Elections and the results have been historic. The way the campaign was fought and the results there of, are the cocksure way of the way the wind blows. Much more the results (it was a foregone conclusion that the anti-incumbency votes would prevail in this election), I was keener on the way the election was fought.

The use of Online and digital media in the US election was awesome. It will be talked about and replicated in the developed world and maybe in countries like India too.

India is going in for its General Elections in early 2009. In the meantime there are lot of states that would be going to elections. The elections in Delhi are slated for end of November. Already candidates sending emails to residents of specific locality has come in news articles.

India has substantial online users (close to 35 Million) and a large population who have mobile phones (over 300 Million in the last count). Reaching out to this audience would be of paramount importance to all parties.

From an advertising point of view digital is a cost effective and an efficient medium. The best part of digital medium is that of optimizing the campaign in between and also the targeting and customization that is possible.

The social networking sites talks about millions of registered users.. and sites likes Orkut claims to have 8 Million profiles from India... Not a bad place to canvass, eh. Imagine targeted banners, where in you can put the local candidate’s photo on the banner ads...

A study by researchers from Princeton and Michigan Universities, together with the US Student Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) New Voter Project Mobile Voter and Working Assets found that text message reminders to new voters increased an individual’s likelihood of voting by close to 5 percentage points. This is an increase similar to ‘quality phone call’ reminders, but at a fraction of the cost.

Where does this leave the Indian politician, and what he/she can do to reach out in this networked digital world? Discounting the fact, that most candidates are of the dinosaur era, and their internet and mobile awareness might be no different from an trained orangutan:). Here are some digital tactics they can adopt for this elections..

Campaign Website
Candidate profile on popular SNS - Orkut/Facebook
Emailer activity
Banner ad campaigns - targeted
Online Webcasts
Online give-away collaterals like Ringtone, wallpaper, downloads, etc


WAP access

Campaign Website:

Each party should have a specific campaign website. The website should highlight what their manifesto is, list of their candidates, A video clip from their leader, Discussion board, The leader schedules, the problems that they will address - national and local (interactive map format).. Polling booth details, etc, etc

SNS sites:

All the candidates needs to have their profile pages on popular SNS sites,, with their complete bio, what their contribution to the society was, is and will be. People can post scraps and the campaign managers’ needs to respond to those at the earliest. Photos, party symbols, ad collaterals can all be linked to for downloads. RSS feeds for alerts from the candidates needs to be provided.

Email Activity:

Regular email activity (once a month/fortnight, based on timelines) can be sent to selected database in each candidate’s constituency. The mails will be from the candidate and personal in nature. I read somewhere, that a candidate from one of the constituency in Delhi is doing this activity.

Banner ads:

The party can go for a pan-India banner campaign that will be targeted banner ads. The banner ads are customized based on the candidate, and the message talking about the local issue pertaining to that state/constituency

Webcast & Online take away collaterals:

These can be part of the campaign website - where in the user can download various branded collaterals, and also watch webcasts of the candidates or the party leaders in action.

The party can also look at online mock campaigns to see what the user reactions are - this would be done independent of the campaign websites. This would give the campaign managers a dipstick into pulse of the public and can optimize/change their campaign tactics

Internet through its shallow penetration may not be as effective as the other forms of traditional mass media. But, the truth of the matter is most of the 'influencers' - the intelligentsia, the media people are all Internet Savvy. They look at information on the net, which is reproduced and picked up in the traditional mass media formats. Hence it is imperative that the parties give a serious thought and have Internet as part of their marketing strategy.

India has the second largest mobile population. Close to 27% of India population are mobile phone users. This medium can be really effective in the coming general elections.

SMS: One of the best and simplest forms of sending the message across would be through the SMS. It is cheap and it is targeted. The message can be localised give the candidate name, the party symbol, and the date of election, etc. The fact that the service providers and handsets now have an option of sending vernacular messages helps

Shortcode: The power of shortcode is that it can be part of all the marketing collaterals; and people have an effective way of being in touch with the party/candidates. The shortcode can also be used for pull message - giving all the information which the general public is seeking for..

IVRS: We, culturally, are a society, wherein sound holds an important part. Us ne vachhan diya, mard ki zuban, etc are of paramount importance in our society. Hearing/listening to someone is more comfortable than words... and IVRS - with recorded messages can play an important part in the canvassing.

MMS: Sending MMS clips to people can also be effective, when canvassing through the mobile space..A 2 minute clip which is 'viral' in nature can be really effective in creating WOM (Word of Mobile)

WAP Access:
25 Million people accessed information through their mobile phones last year. And a WAP site would go a long way in terms of communicating more than 160 characters or 2 minute sound/video clips.

I am sure - this elections will be fought in villages, street corners, public grounds, print, TV, radio, and of course the cyberspace.




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