India is about to witness the 16th Lok Sabha Elections from April 7 to May 12, 2014. The wave is different this time. Political parties are focusing on development and progressive governance to appeal to the youth.

According to the Election Commission, around 2.3 crore 18-19 year olds have been enrolled to vote in 2014, out of a total electorate of 81.5 crore voters. For the first time the country is going to experience the youth moulding the nation’s future. Political parties cannot overlook such a massive chunk of first time voters and hence the affinity for social networks by aged politicians.

Today’s youth is spending considerable time on the internet connecting either on Facebook or WhatsApp. This behaviour has forced political parties to adopt ways that suit the mood of today’s generation. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been an early adopter of social media, Congress has had an on and off tryst but bettered over the time and Aam Aadmi Party saw an organic growth on social media.

Indian political parties are making an effort to reach out to the voters on social networking platforms. Seeing this trend and understanding the present needs, social networking platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter are doing their bit too. These companies are bringing forward their respective platforms in innovative ways, to encourage conversations along with election coverage and relevant information.

Google’s effort for Lok Sabha Elections 2014

The search giant Google has been quite popular for Hangouts among the Indian politicians for quite some time. Hangout, that allows group video chatting among 10 people, was first tried in Q3 2012 by Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. The experiment worked really well for Modi while he became the third politician in the world to communicate with people after Barack Obama and Julia Gillard through Hangout. Later on, Hangout became really popular and saw a whole bunch of politicians trying it out in order to connect with the digital audience.

Keeping in mind the forthcoming elections, Google has joined hands with Network18 to help connect politicians with voters across the country. The partnership involves a series of Google Hangouts with politicians titled ‘In conversation’.

The first Hangout saw Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha, addressing voters. He will be followed by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Jammu & Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan, NCP President Sharad Pawar, noted economist Jairam Ramesh and social activist Anna Hazare – discussing key topics and issues on the voters’ minds. Stay informed about the forthcoming guests by following the Elections Hub.

The Elections Hub is also curating development of all major parties in the Home section with additional election resources, individual party resources and YouTube campaigns of respective parties.

Google has included a Pledge to Vote visual section since every vote counts. While the page is asking users to show their support by taking a pledge to vote, the page also shows an interactive map which is filling quickly with pledges. One can zoom in and hover on the pledges to see what people are saying. Total pledge counter is missing but if you are short of inspiration then check out the moving story of Mr. Shyam Negi, independent India’s first voter, who is 97 years old and has never missed the opportunity to cast his vote.

Google has included an interesting Trends section that is showing ‘Google Score’ based on the amount of search activity people are performing in the last 24 hours using Google Search and YouTube for a political leader. Google Score also takes into consideration the amount of engagement the political leader is drawing on Google Plus. Right now Modi is witnessing an upward arrow and Kejriwal is witnessing a drop in the rankings.

Facebook’s effort for Lok Sabha Elections 2014

Facebook, India’s most popular social network, which has more than 93M active users in India initially displayed sporadic efforts for the elections. At the beginning of this year, after adding “Register To Vote” feature in its Life Event section on Facebook, the social networking company created Indian Political Interest Lists.

These lists, for example, the list of Indian political leaders which features 22 influential leaders such as Shashi Tharoor, Ajay Maken, Mamata Banerjee, Manish Sisodia, among others, provides information on the latest developments in politics.

Later on Facebook launched an Election Tracker – a performance dashboard of the leading political parties and politicians. The data shown as graphs is based on the number of mentions on Facebook showcasing political parties – Congress, BJP and AAP along with their supreme leaders – Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal. The dashboard was a good move but Facebook could have provided more insights rather than just showing the mentions.

But, the biggest development happened earlier this month when Facebook came up with a disruptive idea keeping the polls in mind – “Candidates 2014 on Facebook Talks Live.”

Candidates 2014 Facebook Talks Live

Tying up with NDTV and Newslaundry, Facebook gave Indians a chance to discuss the electoral agenda with the country’s top politicians including West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and Lalu Prasad Yadav.

People through Facebook and a live audience asked questions. The interviews were also aired on the NDTV news channel and streamed live online.

Twitter’s effort for Lok Sabha Elections 2014

The 140 character network, which has been a hit among politicians, is also an online battle ground between rival parties. The ease of the medium has struck a chord among politicians such as Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal, Shashi Tharoor, Sushma Swaraj, among others. But at the same time we have seen the madness of hashtag trending by political parties and their supporters.

Today political debates on television are being driven by Twitter. Considering this, it is surprising that Twitter India till now hasn’t shown any interest in creating initiatives like Facebook or Google.

However, Twitter is working in the background to monetize from the election fever in the country. In a recent interview with ET, Rishi Jaitly, India Head of Twitter, stated that “The Lok Sabha elections would be a key partnerships platform for Twitter in India this year.”

Twitter India has set up a dedicated vertical whose mandate is to get political parties, politicians and influencers to engage with their audience on Twitter. Twitter India’s last hire of Raheel Khursheed as the Head News Politics, Govt can be seen as a move to forge a strong bond with the Indian political system.

But will Twitter launch an Indian Political Index as it did during the US Presidential 2012 elections?

Social media might not pull voters from across the country to the ballot boxes since the internet penetration in the country is less than 13% and adoption of social media is still not in double digits. But social media is definitely turned into a platform of conversation and debate between political parties and voters along with other mediums. Social networking giants Google, Facebook and Twitter are also doing their bit to make the 16th Lok Sabha Elections different from the rest of the previous elections.

Now let’s hope for a stable and progressive government.

Image credit: Mint