Prime Minister Narendra Modi is without doubt among the most connected politicians in the world. From Facebook to Twitter and LinkedIn, he commands huge follower bases, often second only to US President Barack Obama. But over the past two years, the Prime Minister, who used his social clout to good effect during the elections, has been instrumental in getting most of his team to also start using social media much more effectively. As Modi said during a Town Hall at the Facebook headquarters in California, he faces an election every five minutes thanks to social media. The impact has been such that even local-level public officers now use new media platforms to communicate with and get feedback.
A lot of this is unprecedented and as a result there are tools being developed specifically for use by ministers and ministries. Take the case of Twitter Seva, which helps process large volume of tweets, converting them into resolvable tickets and assigning them to the relevant authority for real-time resolution. This customised e-governance delivery service developed for the Indian government is now being used by the the ministry of commerce (@DIPPGOI), the ministry of external affairs (@MEAIndia) and the ministry of railways (@RailMinIndia).
Raheel Khursheed of news and government partnerships at Twitter India says Narendra Modi has pioneered a new wave in “Twitter governance”. “PM Modi is implementing his vision of ‘minimum government maximum governance’ via Twitter. Over the last two years, the NDA government has used Twitter effectively for transparent and accountable governance,” he said, underlining the importance of Twitter Seva, develop ed as an India-first innovation.
For ministries like the railways, the service is driving efficient and effective customer service along with real-time citizen feedback. While railway minister Suresh Prabhu (@sureshpprabhu) has used social media for quick complaint redressal, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) has been actively using it to help Indian citizens in crisis with several instance coming to the fore in the past few months.
Khursheed said Modi’s follower base has grown 400 per cent from 4 million followers to 20 million since he was sworn in as the Prime Minister. “Since the start of the year, Modi’s Twitter account (@NarendraModi) has added three million followers, taking his total follower count to 20 million,” he adds. The PM is the most followed Indian leader and the second most followed politician in the world after Obama (@barackobama) with 75 million followers.
Modi has also brought in his own brand of Twiplomacy, using Twitter to reach out to other leaders like his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe (@AbeShinzo)
“Government ministers, police officials, elections commissions and other government agencies are following suit and taking aggressively to Twitter to connect in real time with their respective Indian audiences,” Khursheed said on the impact of the PM being so active on Twitter. He cites campaigns like #MakeInIndia, #MannKiBaat, #SwachhBharat, #SelfieWithDaughter, #MyCleanIndia, and #TransformingIndia as examples of how Modi has used Twitter to reach and connect with Indian and global audiences. “We are involved in constant conversations with various ministries and ministers to use the platform in a more cohesive way. We gauge the gaps in communication and outreach strategy and come up with innovations on the platform to help the government make better use of the platform,” Khursheed added.
On Facebook, the focus has been similar though the conversations have been a bit different, and obviously longer. Ankhi Das, Public Policy Director at Facebook-India, South & Central Asia said the number of ministries and ministers on Facebook have risen from 2014 to 2016. “When looking at the number of interactions (likes, comments, shares) on their pages, five of the Indian ministries or initiatives are in the top 50 from around the world. Those are the ministry for information and broadcasting, ministry of external affairs, Make in India, ministry of railways and ministry of Women and Child Development,” she said. “One of the unique things about how Modi’s team uses Facebook is that they use it to not only communicate with citizens in India, but with the larger dispora community across the world,” Das added.
She said the government is really pushing ministries and ministers to use Facebook and other social media platforms to effectively communicate with citizens. “We see ministries around the world using Facebook to connect with citizens. Modi’s team is amongst the most committed to encouraging and insisting their ministries utilise Facebook to the fullest.”
According to Das, Prime Minister Modi has consistently been at or near the top of the list for world leaders when looking at the interaction rates on his page. “When looking at fan growth over the last year, the Prime Minister has gained the second most fans compared to other world leaders. He gained 5.49 million fans and President Obama gained 5.5 million.”
On Facebook, the largest social media network in the country, 47 ministers have a verified presence. While Modi is still the most active in terms of follower base and interactions, Harsimrat Kaur Badal has the highest interaction rate at 2.45%, while Piyush Goyal has the best average posts per day count at 3.76.
Meanwhile, ministers like Maneka Gandhi and Rajyavardhan Rathore have used tools like Facebook Q&A and Live effectively. Of the 51 ministries, 37 have verified pages. According to data provided by Facebook, the Ministry of External Affairs is the best performer, followed by I&B and Railways.