Lok Sabha Election 2019: Is Rahul Gandhi winning the social media war?
New Delhi : Often mocked as the "Pappu" of the Indian politics, Congress President Rahul Gandhi is trying hard to do an image makeover and emerge as a witty leader through his sarcasm-filled tweets for his 8.41 million followers.
What may give the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) some jitters ahead of the general elections is that Rahul Gandhi's tweets appear to have undone some of the damages his rivals inflicted on him in the previous elections.
Despite having much less followers on Twitter than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi's tweet during the Interim Budget received the most retweets, showed Twitter data that took into account conversations in the four-day period from January 31-February 3.
The tweet that was retweeted over 12,000 times was: "5 years of your incompetence and arrogance has destroyed the lives of our farmers. Giving them Rs 17 a day is an insult to everything they stand and work for."
The tweet which was hashtagged #AakhriJumlaBudget referred to the Rs 6,000 per annum announced in the Interim Budget for every farmer having up to two hectares of land.
"As expected, you haven't understood a thing from the Budget," read the BJP's response to Rahul Gandhi's tweet that was retweeted nearly 9,000 times.
In comparison to Rahul Gandhi's tweets, Modi's Interim Budget day tweet garnered over 7,000 retweets. Modi has over 45.4 million followers on the micro-blogging platform.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Congress leader told IANS that Rahul Gandhi's posts are getting higher traction on social media because the mainstream media is "pro-Modi" and biased against the Congress President.
"As the content of the tweets often make it to the instant messaging platform WhatsApp which has a wider reach in rural India than Twitter, greater retweets of Rahul's messages is good news for the grand old party", the source said.
According to Congress Social Media and Digital Communications head Divya Spandana, "engagement across social media platforms is a better parameter to judge, not followers".
Social media expert Anoop Mishra, however, warned that the number of retweets does not make a person "a greater influencer".
"What they indicate is people's interest in the subject that has been tweeted," Mishra told IANS.
Apart from retweets, the other parameters to measure Twitter influence is the number of "Mentions" a person is getting on Twitter.
The Congress President's reach at social media platforms, said Mishra, has dramatically increased in the past five months.
"As per my study which was done on the social reach of political leaders including Rahul Gandhi on September 5, 2018, the current statistics shows higher growth in his tweets, number of followers and retweets," Mishra informed.
Though Rahul Gandhi has fewer followers on Twitter in comparison with Modi, the Congress leader's follower base is growing at that rate of 6,260 new followers per day and earning a better engagement rate on Twitter and other social media platforms like Instagram.
"For Rahul, the gain in Twitter followers from September 2018 till date is 868,501 and the average number of retweets per day has increased from 7,580 to 7,700," Mishra added.
Now with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (who will take charge as Congress General Secretary of UP East soon) likely to join social media, the BJP may have to pull up all socks to fight the brother-sister duo on the social media platforms.