2014 is a week older already but we can’t bid 2013 an adieu if we don’t share the stories that defined the Indian social media space. Listed below are the 11 major stories that emphasized social media as a serious business in the country. The adoption of social media in the country is yet to see the double digit growth but social media is here to stay.

1. Government and social media monitoring

2013 made it clear in bold letters that there is no such thing called privacy, thanks to the laudable work by whistleblower, Edward Snowden. While the world was miffed with the NSA spying on other countries, India had already developed its own Central Monitoring System, equivalent to Prism of NSA.

social media monitoring

While the socially savvy Minister of State, Communications & IT and Shipping, Milind Deora tried explaining the need of such a system via a Google Hangout, the verdict was out that the government wanted to monitor social media activities of its citizens.

The 400 crore CMS system will surely help the government to safeguard the country’s interest but it also meant that online privacy was a myth in the country. By the end of the year, the Indian Government had also started working on another similar system Netra developed by the Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Robotics (CAIR) to track words like ‘attack’, ‘bomb’, ‘blast’ or ‘kill’ from reams of tweets, status updates, emails, instant messaging transcripts, internet calls, blogs and forums. The system will have the capability of capturing any dubious voice traffic passing through software such as Skype or Google Talk.

2. Misuse of IT Act 66A

2013 made netizens knowledgeable about IT Act 66A in a way that one was scared to share anything on social media platforms due to the continuous misuse of the law. Starting from 2012, the misuse continued will 2013. If the last quarter of 2012 got known for the arrest of the Palghar girls for their Facebook post and activity then in May 2013, Jaya Vindhayal, the state general secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) was arrested on the grounds of an objectionable post against A Krishna Mohan, a Congress MLA from Chirala in Prakasam district.

Interestingly, Jaya was arrested when a PIL was already filed challenging the validity of Section 66A. Later the Supreme Court ordered that no arrests should be made for posting objectionable content on social networking sites without permission of senior officials.

Some other cases that showcased the clear misuse of the act were:

a) Sanjay Chowdhary from Agra arrested for posting content about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

b) Ram Nayan Choudhury arrested for sharing cartoons on CM Mamata Banerjee on Facebook.

c) Scholar and writer, Kamal Bharti, was arrested in Uttar Pradesh for showing support to the suspended IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal on Facebook.

3. Regulating social media

In 2013 it was strongly debated that social media should be regulated and brought under law. Along with the government other political parties joined in vouching for the same, since social media platforms were being used to disrupt the communal harmony in the country according to them.

Social media was considered as the primary culprit during the recent Muzaffarnagar riots that claimed 48 lives. The misuse of social media to spread objectionable content and hatred among communities came under attack from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a number of Chief Ministers, who demanded some mechanism to check its uncontrolled use.

The voice was further strengthened with the Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s constant demand of social media being misused and later the Director of Intelligence Bureau Asif Ibrahim demanding that social network should be brought under Indian law, at the Directors General and Inspectors General of Police.

It would be interesting to watch if 2014 would witness social media being brought under the Indian law. However with general election in the first of 2014, I really doubt if the government would risk doing so.

4. Congress, BJP and social media

2013 saw massive adoption and investments being made by political parties for social media. BJP has been the torch bearer in adopting social media and having a massive fan following on the medium. The credit goes to Narendra Modi who from day one has vouched for the medium and hence has been the most discussed politician on social media for 2013. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Google Yahoo, Modi has been the subject discussed and searched extensively on the Internet.

Congress, with a few early fumbles, did gain understanding of the medium and has been providing stiff completion to BJP on social media.

2014 is going to see more of it since the general elections are in May and social media might not decide your electoral fate but it can’t be ignored anymore. If reports are to be believed, Rahul Gandhi has finally decided to tweet by himself to reach out to the common man of the country.

While there has been a massive adoption of social media, the platform has also seen grave misuse at the same time. Controversies have been created on social media, investing in fake likes on social media have been rampant and the mindless trending of issues. 2014 will see them happen more.

6. Regional parties and social media

With the big rivals Congress and BJP investing heavily on social media in 2013, regional political parties were not left behind. The Gen-Next of Chautalas, Dushyant and Digvijay, both sons of Ajay Chautala representing the Indian National Lok Dal had launched a special campaign in March, 2013 to win over the youth of Haryana with a major push on social media. The initiative however lacked the punch on social.

One of the primary reasons for political parties to join social media has been with the sole purpose of wooing the nation’s youth. Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik did for the same reason as he asked his party men to use social media to woo young voters since the youth constitute 40 percent of the total electorate in the state.

Later in the year we also saw regional parties of Maharashtra and Bihar joining the medium. Regional parties from Maharashtra such as National Congress Party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), etc. did spike up their activity on social media but the move lacked the intent and objective. In Bihar along with the leader of ruling party Nitish Kumar, LJP President Ramvilas Paswan also joined social media to woo youth. By the last quarter of 2013 even the 72-year-old veteran politician and the president of National Congress Party, Sharad Pawar joined social media too. The move was made keeping in mind the elections and making NCP easily accessible to fans on social media.

7. Organic growth of AAP on social media

By forming government in Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has re-defined politics in the country. The year old party with limited resources has used social media from day one along with other mediums. The growth of the party on social media has not only been a remarkable one but also on a shoe string budget. The organic growth story of AAP on social media has been an eye opener for many of us as it was competing with mightier parties like BJP and Congress where funds are not an issue.

Arvind Kejriwal Facebook

Like Narendra Modi has cheerleaded the presence of BJP on social media, AAP’s Founder Arvind Kejriwal had been the torch bearer of his party’s thoughts on social media. In an interview with us Arvind had shared that, “Social media is here to stay. We have to adapt to it, or we will not be able to connect to people.”

8. Facebook’s growth and ongoing PILs

The growth of the platform has been debated in US but in India it is showing no signs of restraint. In the month of August, 2013 Facebook had revealed that the number of MAUs in India has shot up by 5 percent to 82 million for the April-June period of last year. This growth has been credited to the adoption of mobile in the country and 62 million Indian mobile users have been accessing the social network.

While the network is growing in the country it has also faced issues like the growth of fake likes and the never ending PILs.

During the Q2 2013 earnings call, Facebook, while admitting that teens are showing less interest to the network, also stated that an estimated 14.3 crore accounts on the network may be false or duplicate, with a major chunk of them coming from developing markets like India and Turkey.

In addition to this Facebook’s worries in India have also increased due to the PIL filed in the Delhi Court by KN Govindacharya, a former BJP ideologue and RSS patron, in which a major focus is on the concerns regarding minors accessing the network, even when Indian laws do not permit it.

Ever since Facebook dropped its age of joining the network to 13 years from the earlier 18 years, safety of teens on the social networking giant has become a point of contention, especially in India. Assessing the concerns, Facebook in July 2013 announced its collaboration with Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) to bring Internet Safety Education programs for students between the age group of 13 to 17. By October the network also published a guide to help educators and the community better support teens accessing the social network. The guide is Facebook’s way of building a responsible social network for its more than a billion users across the globe, which can be implemented by Indian schools too. However, the question remains to what extent will Facebook work with educators to implement the guide.

9. Twitter’s expansion in India

2013 has been a big year for Twitter. Along with a successful IPO, the 140 character network has slowly expanded its base in the country in terms of hiring, adding new sources of revenue and trying out new ways to get user traction.

While it has stated during the IPO that its inability to offer full features in markets like India will have a considerable impact, there has been no cut down in expanding the Twitter India team. In the second quarter Arvinder Gujral joined Twitter as Head of Mobile Business Development for India & South East Asia. Later by the last quarter, Pratiksha Rao and Aneesh S Madani added up to the existing team and Raheel Khursheed is the latest to be a part of Twitter India as Head of News, Politics and Government.

Traction has been a problem for Twitter, in the country which has been dominated by Facebook. Still Twitter has made interesting partnerships in 2013 to get more eyeballs. While it partnered with IPL and BCCI during Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement it also did an operator tie up with Vodafone. According to the deal, Vodafone India customers got free access to Twitter on their browser and ‘Twitter for Android’ app without any mobile internet charges for three months.

India being still a feature phone market, Twitter made sure to address them too. It tied up with Bollywood celebrities to get their tweets on the screen of feature phone users for free without any data packs.

Twitter also made sure that it expanded its interest with TV in the country. While Twitter has already transformed into the second screen device in the country, it tied up with Airtel Digital to get live tweets on the idiot box. 2014 will see more of Twitter in the country.

10. Growth of mobile messaging apps

Mobile messaging apps are already the next big thing in the social media space and the existing giants are very well aware of it. In the last year India has seen a massive proliferation of messaging apps in the country which is only going to grow. The global leader of messaging apps, WhatsApp also leads in the country but players like Hike, Line, WeChat, Viber among others are investing in marketing spends and are also witnessing spikes in user traction. Our in depth story about the state of mobile messaging apps in the country gives a better picture.

11. Acquisition of social media agencies

2013 witnessed quite a few acquisitions of social media agencies by bigger agencies.

a. Beginning of July, 2013 the mobile marketing unit of HT Media, HT Mobile Solutions acquired Webitude, a social media organization based in Gurgaon, for an undisclosed amount.

b. By the end of July, 2013 Indian bred multinational digital agency Gozoop, announced the acquisition of Red Digital, one of India’s popular social media agencies for an undisclosed amount.

c. In September 2013, Hyderabad-based start-up PennyWise Digital Solutions had announced that advertising major Ogilvy & Mather has decided to acquire a majority stake. Though there have been no further disclosures about the deal, it is being said that PennyWise will serve as the digital technology and production centre of excellence for Ogilvy & Mather in India.

c. By the end of November, 2013 Digital and Mobile marketing firm Flamingos Media Pvt. Ltd, announced its acquisition by UAE based digital marketing firm Kreata Global. The deal didn’t have much clarity but it is said that Flamingos will continue to operate independently under the new management.

d. To The New digital agency has been on an acquisition spree in 2013. At the start of the year it acquired Techsailor, another Singapore based digital marketing agency and later it acquired Singapore based social media analytics firm, ThoughtBuzz.

These acquisitions have only made the social media industry in the country more credible and 2014 might see some more agency acquisitions.

Which of the eleven news makers do you think has created a bigger dent in the Indian social media space in 2013?