Article 2014 The Year in Review

Why social media is not just about ‘like’ and ‘share’

Three-year-old Jhanvi Ahuja did to social media what Prince, a four year old boy who fell in a bore-well in the year 2006 did to national television. The kid was saved by a Army in a rescue operation which lasted for 48 hours. The entire event was covered live on national television.

The event recorded highest viewership for the Indian news channels which, at that time. Zee News, which was first to pick up the story, was reportedly captured 40% of the eye ball during the period. It was also the first time Indians realized the power of news channel, as they literally forced the lethargic state administration to take action on a large scale.

Jhanvi, who disappeared from India Gate, an “Arc-de-Triomphe” like archway in New Delhi, in September this year, was found in South-West of the city after a fortnight. Thanks to the might of social media which forced the kidnappers to desert the kid along with the contact details of parents, fearing that kid might be recognized.

The kid’s family undertook a massive social media campaign on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp with an emotional appeal to help them find their only child with picture and contact details.

If the girl had gone missing say some 10-15 years back, her photos would have been spotted on walls and poles across the city and no one would have noticed. Her picture would have been splashed on all news channels.

The girl’s family, equipped with social media, managed to spread the information at the speed of wildfire. The medium proved more effective than any off-line or TV campaign.

Thanks to social media the girl was back home in a fortnight.

“Social media has taken a big leap from a time when everyone was skeptical of how it could be, to now, when it has become a power centre for social change. How people came together for Jahnvi is a clear case of what happens when social media is used for social good, and we should encourage it,” says Anshul Tewari, founder and editor-in-chief of website Youth Ki Awaaz in an interview with a newspaper, after the girl was found using the social media.

Not only the common man but politicians have also realized the potential of social media. A few years back most of the politicians were skeptical about the use of social media. The victory of right wing political party Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), which proactively used social media to garner support proved all of them wrong.

Interestingly, the top leaders of grand old Congress Party are yet to join social media, which of course impacted the results as they end up their lowest every tally of 40 seats in a 545 member house. In the year 2012, two years before the Lok Sabha election 2014, BJP’s IT cell decided to use social media to ensure that their message reach the common man, as they believe that mainstream media was ignoring them and playing in the hands of opposition party, which was ruling the nation for last decade.

Starting early, BJP maintained an edge over all the political parties in India till the end of election. With around 3 million fans on social media, the party has strongest social media presence among political parties.

Besides official page, the party to spread its campaign, has designed other social media campaign. Official page of its candidate for the post of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (now the PM), India 272+, CAG, friends of BJP to the name a few helped the party to reach maximum number of people.

One of the key highlights of the three decade old party was seamless integration of various digital platforms with offline campaign.

BJP has also launched some of interesting campaign to connect with the voters to share their future plan and strategy. Mere Sapnon Ka Bharat, NaMo Number, Chai Pe Charcha to name a few.

“It is difficult to say how many FB likes or twitter followers converted into votes, but it has definitely helped us to reach and connect with a large number of voters” said Arvind Gupta, IT head of BJP.

Social media, as it seems to become, a household tool also to get desired results.

Anamika Misra, a housewife, has recently started selling junk jewelry in her colony located in Dawarka, located in the South-West part of the national capital, New Delhi.

Misra, after a point of time, was finding it difficult to get new customer to increase her business. But someone advised her to set-up a Facebook page to promote her products on the social network website. Anamika, with help of her husband and cousin, set up the page for her jewellery brand, Alankaran. The page started getting likes and soon she started getting sales queries from different parts of the country.

“Every morning I post few pictures of jewelry on Facebook. People who like it connect with me over FB. Once payment is made in my bank account, we ship the product using courier,” she said.

“It is difficult to build trust initially, but once it is there, I set the ball rolling,” she revealed.

However, the misuse of social media is also rampant. Harassment and derogatory messages are common on the medium which is free for all. From common man to high profile journalists have often complained of been harassed on the medium. Everything has its pro and cons. Social media is no exception to the rule.

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