Twitter looks to make India poll experience a global feature

Social media giant looks to play key role in elections in Indonesia, Brazil

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 May, 2014, 5:08am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 May, 2014, 6:19am

Social networking company Twitter is planning to replicate parts of its India election strategy across countries that go to polls this year, after it emerged as a key tool for politicians and media companies during the world's largest democratic exercise.

In India, Twitter worked with politicians including the victor Narendra Modi who used the platform for election campaigning, and also linked with mobile-phone and media firms to distribute tweets online and offline.

Now, with polling due in countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and the United States later this year, the San Francisco-based company plans to expand its foothold in the political arena and increase its user base.

"The election more than any other moment provides a nice microcosm of the value Twitter can add ... we are sharing widely the lessons of this Indian election around the world," said Rishi Jaitly, Twitter's India marketing chief

The company recently sent political strategist to Brazil to explain the potential of the social network to senators, who were likely to use Twitter's six-second video app Vine for campaigning after it was used by Indian politicians, the company said.

For the US election, the company has started looking for partners to replicate their "Tweet To Remember" feature, which enables users to add the voting date to their mobile calendar to maximise participation.

Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) embraced the technology ahead of rivals, collaborating with thousands of volunteers to spread the Hindu nationalist leader's message and counter criticism.

It was the country's first Twitter election, and the novelty gave an advantage to the politicians who adopted it first, said Milan Vaishnav of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"The Indian experience will serve as a model for other developing countries ... In the US, the saturation of social media by all parties may have a cancelling out effect," Vaishnav said

Tech-smart Modi, who has 4.3 million Twitter followers, used the platform relentlessly. He recently tweeted "selfies" and pictures with his mother. On May 16 he set a Twitter India record with his victory acknowledgement tweet.

His rivals lagged. A few years before India's mammoth election, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor asked Rahul Gandhi, the lead campaign manager of the now ousted party, to join Twitter. Gandhi declined.

With about two-thirds of India's population under 35, Modi targeted the young and smart by topping up campaigning with social media, holograms and recorded voice calls.

Modi, who is due to be sworn in today, has not let up his Twitter onslaught since the election and like other global leaders will make the service a central part of his communications arsenal.