Social media, especially Facebook, is likely to play a decisive role in the outcome of the next general elections to be held in mid-2014, according to a study by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), an industry body representing the interests of online and mobile VAS industry.
Voters in 160 constituencies out of the total 543, which are going to the polls in 2014, are likely to be influenced by trends in social media, the study has revealed. Consequently, candidates also need to chalk out a well-thought-out social media strategy for their campaigns to be effective, it says.
The study also puts the Lok Sabha constituencies under various categories, depending on the number of Facebook users in those regions. Going by that, as many as 160 constituencies are high-impact ones while 67 are medium-impact ones.
High-impact constituencies are those where the number of Facebook users is more than the winner's margin of victory in the LS polls or where Facebook users account for more than 10 per cent of the voting population. The medium-impact ones are those where a Facebook user can influence another voter who may not be on the social networking site. These are the ones where the total number of Facebook users is in excess of 5 per cent of the voting population.
As per the report, Maharashtra (with 21 constituencies) is leading the category of high-impact constituencies, followed by Gujarat (17) and Uttar Pradesh (14). Goa (2), Chandigarh (1), Orissa (1) and Uttarakhand (1) are at the bottom of the pyramid.
The study also says that the number of social media users in urban India will touch 66 million by June 2013, from 62 million in December 2012. By the time elections are held in 2014, the number of users will be higher, possibly closer to 80 million, if the trend holds.
It is also likely that the 25 million-strong NRI (non-resident Indians) community, who has now voting rights, will follow the elections more closely even if they are not physically present in India to cast their votes. NRIs are considerably active on social media.
The Indian voting population is expected to reach 800 million by the time the country goes to the polls in 2014. Out of that, a big chunk of voters will be 25 or younger and they are likely to use the social media more â€“ thus impacting the polling trends.
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)