Election campaigns form the very essence of the Indian polity. Political infrastructures have evolved significantly over the last decade, such that digital canvassing has become indispensable in the process of electoral politics. It is thus safe to say that today Digital Media has emerged as the newest election war-rooms – so much so that many political battles are fought (and won) on Twitter.
Taking from the playbook of digital campaigning in the West, a good rule of thumb for anyone doing database segmentation for an electorate is to give it 5-10 hours of focus, and try to develop at least 10 different segments that could be subdivided or cross-segmented as the campaign progresses. Segmentation categories usually include demographics, geography, voting preferences, hot-button issues, and digital conversions. This was the starting point of the 40-people strong digital team that started campaigning in the coastal state back in September. Their first task – is to comprehend, and subsequently appeal to the spectrum of multi-hyphenated identities that form the digital demographics in Goa.
With an internet penetration of over 60 per cent in the coastal state, it is estimated that 15 to 20 per cent of Goans have access to the Internet, compared to the national average of around 12 per cent. Goa might have one of the smallest electorates in the country, but it is also one of the smartest, having historically driven out the incumbent politicians, to maintain the efficacy of governance. According to Facebook estimates, of its 1.6 million population, close to 1.1 million are active Facebook users alongside a generous spattering of people in tens of thousands on Whatsapp, Instagram, Youtube and Twitter. This digital electorate is split into 29% women and 71% men, with the 18-34 age range being the most active. Of this, about 3.5 lakh Goans regularly use their social media to actively engage in conversations around politics and social issues.
Considering an average person logs into their social media between 15-20 times a day, it is not difficult to imagine why a dedicated team of experts from ivy league management colleges from across the country spend their every waking hour monitoring, measuring and engaging with digital audiences, using the virtual realms to spread the party messaging and establish a digital dialogue with the Goan voter.
According to the internal estimates of the digital team – one which most recently tasted sweet success handling a 4+ crore digital audience in Bengal – there are over 13.5 lakh active digital users. An internal benchmark sets the target of establishing at least 500 repeated digital touchpoints for each of these users.
Content is mainly divided into two key buckets - Goenchi Navi Sakal – the key Pro TMC campaign, a phrase which in Konkani translates to a ‘New Dawn for Goans’. This campaign is largely dedicated to presenting TMC’s mission and vision for poll-bound Goa. Given the election fiasco of 2017, this campaign resonates TMC’s on-ground messaging - with a focus to establish TMC as the credible alternative for the Goan electorate, with a single-minded focus to oust BJP, which in 2017 unscrupulously formed the government, despite not having the highest number of seats in Goa’s 40-member strong Constituent Assembly. With over 70,000 users directly connected on the campaign pages across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the campaign pages are dedicated to highlighting the leaders, using a range of audio-visual messaging – from static creatives of everything from ongoing door-to-door campaigns to significant quotes and leader bytes, alongside press conferences and other significant events held across the state. The internal team however notes that beyond the hullabaloo of social media, the Whatsapp network where over 30% of the Goan population is directly connected, remains its biggest strength. Just in these last months since TMC, who started actively campaigning in Goa late September onwards, has formed booth level WhatsApp groups with a pool of over 2500+ digital volunteers actively engaged in dispersing the party’s messaging.
Another key objective of the digital campaign is to tap into the ‘Voice of Goenkars’ – this is strictly a research-based digital canvassing module, which records the grievances, requirements and aspirations of the Goan population with a focus on women and youth, through real-time digital engagement. Mapping and cross-referencing the digital sentiment of the audiences, the team uses a hyper-local marketing technique to ensure that constituency-wise specific targeting is made possible.
Using native targeting tools offered by social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram, alongside customised sentiment mapping tools, the target demographic is selected pin-code wise following which customised content is generated and delivered - a tool used globally by search engines like Google to show results curated specifically to best match the users’ location and taste preferences.
Using a combination of these tools and techniques, the digital team has in the last five months, executed several campaigns with finesse – the first of which was a Chargesheet released by the TMC in Goa – highlighting the key issues faced by the electorate. Termed as the ‘People's Chargesheet' and released towards the end of October last year, this 10-point document was put together after detailed consultations with Goans from all walks of life including scholars, journalists, activists, sector experts, community representatives and civil society members. Digital sentiment and audience grievance mapping formed a significant part in the formulation and dissemination of this campaign. With a collective reach of 1M+ and video views of 2M+, this data-based document resonated strongly with the Goan audiences, highlighting issues across nine sectors of Goa.
Yet another campaign that made national headlines, 'Thank You CM Sawant for this Disaster' - was a placard picture-based campaign, initiated after CM Sawant’s yet another insensitive comment implying that the Goans should be thankful to him for the covid vaccines. It is interesting to note here, that while the BJP administration repeatedly claims that it has achieved 100% (double) vaccination in the state, official data on the Goa government website reflects otherwise. Moreover, the state government had also arbitrarily removed Covid from under the protection of the Deen Dayal Swasthya Seva Yojna, conveniently leading thousands of Goans insurance-less in the middle of a raging pandemic. Showcasing the anger and absolute loss of faith in the BJP administration, 'Thank You CM Sawant for this Disaster' campaign had people from all 40 constituencies using placards to highlight their plight and hold the administration accountable.
Similarly, using a complex but elaborate digital tool kit, and demographic-specific messaging, the digital team has executed several other key campaigns in just these last few months, effectively using the two-way communication protocols enabled by social media to record local sentiment which in turn played a key role in the design of its Election Manifesto. Besides the Goa TMC Membership (https://aitcofficial.org/joingoatmc/), the Griha Laxmi and Yuva Shakti – two of the key welfare-based election promises made by the Goa TMC, campaigns similarly monitored and maintained online, where an active pool of volunteers engages directly with the audiences round the clock, addressing questions and concerns, and taking the feedback back to the leadership teams.
Their campaign song “Don Fulancho Kaal, Goenchi Navi Sakal” premiered on Youtube early in Jan, and within less than a week amassed an organic reach of over 2 lakhs, a testament to the modern era of hashtag politics, a signature of IPAC-style political campaigning.