'Social media micro-influencers are the next big political weapons' writes Param Dane
Updated: Jan 2, 2021
Social media campaigning played an extremely pivotal role in the Indian general elections of 2014 when the Modi camp took the jump towards e-adverts, an unprecedented move in Indian politics.
Slowly, but steadily, nearly all political parties and figures have made it a point to have a formidable presence on social media with troll-armies and paid advertisements via the likes of Facebook and Google apart from the official accounts.
However, the e-world is a dynamic space, it's changing continuously. As more and more people get used to it, the traditional methods of e-advertising are colossally losing value.
Take for example, twitter "IT Cells" of Congress, BJP and AAP. Any opinion or even fact presented via an account with consistently pro-party tweets for any side is instantly disregarded and stripped of credibility. Accounts like Ashok Swain, Rana Ayyub, Prashant Bhushan and Saket Gokhale are merely feel-good content for their allied party's followers rather than influencing strays.
This is a direct impact of people understanding how political accounts with extremely large follower-counts are nothing different than spokesperson for a party.
Enter micro-influencers, in essence, non-political social media accounts with relatively small reach and follower counts in the range of 5,000 to 15,000.
Accounts like these have especially boomed in number on Instagram as a result of the democratizing effect of 'Reels' - Instagram's attempt at filling Tiktok's void which unables relatively unknown accounts into stardom as effect of even a single 15 second long video.
These accounts enjoy the benefit of not being judged by a political gauge and their importance is directly attributed to two factors:
Internet users have grown more and more fond of these small time social media celebrities. Many such accounts maintain one-on-one conversations with many of their followers. Another major factor which works in their favor is that a majority of their followers are apolitical, the easiest bunch to influence. Users are usually already patronized by such influencers making it extremely easy to sway them politically by a rare political endorsement masquerading as support for a social cause. Instagram user by the username @taneesho for example, switched her display picture to "Dalit Lives Matter" aiding opposition parties' efforts to communalise the Hathras rape case.
The second major factor is that the prime demographic of followers of such accounts are more likely to consume their daily dose of current affairs via social media rather than actual news-media houses. In this case, they are more likely to trust such influencers rather than an sponsored advert posted by a political party's page. Political opinions expressed by these accounts are taken to be authentic since the people behind them are usually assumed politically-neutral. Thirdly, their image is usually of "all merry and lovely" social media star. After all, "why would he/she lie, they have nothing to do with politics and he/she is a very nice person as well" plays an important role.
The benefits of political campaigns involving micro-influencers are existent on the financial front as well. Such covertly sponsored occasional campaigns with micro-influencers are relatively cheaper and yield better results on an average than mega e-campaigns which carry a hefty cost and the premium which has to be paid to the advertising company, the advertiser and so on.
Lastly, ethics are murky in this territory meaning paid political campaigns can easily be passed as personal opinions by such influencers at the right price which is almost impossible in case of institutional advertisements or campaigns - especially during election season.
Param Dane is an aspiring medical doctor.