We have worked on products to specifically address the poll

Written by Anand J | Updated: Apr 9 2014, 10:42am hrs
Since the last general elections, the online landscape has changed drastically. Facebook has crossed 100 million monthly active users in India which, incidentally, is more than the number of votes the BJP got in the 2009 Lok Sabha poll. With the smartphone explosion and accessibility of the social network in Indian languages, Facebook believes it stands to impact several constituencies. It has 75 million mobile users 31 million are active daily and is available in nine Indian languages. Its public policy director (India & South Asia) Ankhi Dasspoke to FE's Anand Jon Facebook's election-oriented initiatives and how more than 52,000 political pages on the social network have created a new broadcast medium for political parties and leaders.

How do you see the role of Facebook in the Lok Sabha elections

Politics is a global priority for us and 40% of the worlds population is voting this year. And India being the largest democracy, Facebook is interested in making the platform available for social mobilisation across political parties and leaders. If you look at the number of votes cast in the 2009 election, Congress got 119 million votes and the BJP 78 million votes. We crossed 93 million monthly active users in December 2013. Politicians would like to be present on platforms where people are.

How has Facebook been preparing for the elections

There are around 52,000 political Facebook pages. Leaders are building communities that will talk and leverage their network. They are engaging with people directly. After Barack Obama, Narendra Modi is the second most popular leader and Arvind Kejriwal is among the top five political leaders globally. On December 8, 2013, when the results of the Delhi elections were announced, Kejriwals total number of fans on the platform was 8.5 lakh and it is touching five million today. Even traditional leaders like Mamata Banerjee have more than seven lakh fans. Secondly, we have worked on product innovations to specifically address the Indian election. We introduced the Registered to Vote feature on timelines. We have partnerships with independent groups like the Association for Democratic Reform to help voters make an informed choice. We are putting out independent research like details of elected representatives. And the third thing is Facebook Talks, which is a multi-platform event. The other tool we expect will be used increasingly is the Facebook Q&A, which was launched with Arun Jaitleys Q&A. The issues that came up were jobs, Communal Violence Bill, Kejriwal phenomenon, internal security and Kashmir. Jaitley got 3,000 questions in 45 minutes.

How have people taken to vernacular languages on Facebook ahead of the poll

If you go to Kumar Vishwas' pages: there are two, one is his personal page and then another is AAP for Amethi. He is talking to users in Hindi using Devanagiri script and videos. The Jaitley campaign has created a Jaitley for Amritsar page. Jaitley speaks in Punjabi and the script used is Gurmukhi.

Do you have any statistics on the growth in engagement over the past few months

In the 24 hours after India called for elections on March 5, usage of the word 'election' rose by 561% and mentions of 'Lok Sabha' increased by 150%. With our Facebook Election Tracker, we are tracking three main parties and their leaders, and you can see who and what is trending on a daily basis. We also looked at a few top issues that users cared about.

How is the growth in advertising from politics

We are happy to see campaigns are investing more on Facebook. They are doing that because people are there. Our penetration level has increased dramatically and we are getting to see the impact.