Physical meetings have a greater impact than likes & follows on social media

 Physical meetings have a greater impact than likes & follows on social media

Satyendra Bhardwaj

While the return of Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh has shattered the dreams of Samajwadi Party whose party workers kept on declaring “10 March ko Akhilesh aa rahe hain” during the campaigning, the former CM Akhilesh Yadav seems to be in no mood to accept defeat! He has recalibrated his strategy, resigned as the Member of Parliament to be the Leader of Opposition in the UP Vidhan Sabha and has upped his attacks on Yogi-led state government on his favourite ‘weapon’ – social media. Yadav’s jibes are mainly directed at law & order, an issue very close to Yogi’s heart – in fact, improved law & order was one big clincher for the BJP in 2022 state elections. So much so that even the (non-party) supporters of Akhilesh Yadav are not taking it very kindly; they are criticising him for fighting the battle on social media rather than on the ground, something his father Mulayam was very particular about. The SP chief remains undeterred though – he is using social media more vigorously than ever to attack the BJP-led state government.

On the back of charges on Yadav for being social media savvy, performance analysis of social media campaigns of both the BJP and rival SP, particularly their Chief Ministerial faces – Yogi and Yadav, have thrown confusing outcomes and seems to defy popular perception that a win on social media ensures a win in the elections and reinforces the criticism of Yadav’s non-party supporters!

Let us have a look at how both Yogi and Yadav fared in the battleground social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram)! For the analysis, we have considered data from February 1 to March 7, 2022 when the campaigning was going on.

Before we dive into the data, a look at the followers/ likes suggests a lead to Yadav on Facebook with 74, 34, 708 page ‘Like’ and 76, 77, 208 page ‘Follower’ in comparison to 67,78,546 page ‘Like’ and 71,37,446 page ‘Follower’. But, Yogi’s Facebook page was created on May 21, 2016, whereas Yadav joined on November 11, 2013. So, late starting point seems to have a bearing on Yogi’s page.

On Twitter, the SP supremo boasts of 16.5 million followers, while Yogi has raced ahead with 19.1 million followers, despite joining the platform in September 2015 – late by six years compared to Yadav who joined in July 2009. Same is the case with Instagram, wherein Yogi has 3.3 million followers, thrice of Yadav’s (789K Followers).

While on ‘Like’/  ‘Follower’ count, Yogi has a clear edge of 2-1 over Yadav, the later was continuously surprising his opponent by the kind of response his social media posts were generating, both prior to elections and during campaigning.

Prior to electioneering, his posts on Facebook were garnering ‘Like’ in the range of 24,000 to 1,30,000, while reaching in thousands of likes within minutes posting, on Twitter too, he was garnering ‘Like’ and ‘Retweet’ in the range of 12,000 to 57,500 on ever tweet.

On the contrary, Yogi’s social media accounts were registering a smaller number of engagements per post or tweet (numbers cannot be confirmed as tweets prior to March 10, 2022 seem to be either archived or deleted), but as number of tweets per days went up to 50, aggregate engagements were higher! During the campaigning, the ‘Like’ on Yogi’s Facebook posts were in the range of 1500 – 1,28,000, whereas on Twitter, tweet ‘Likes’ were between 1864 – 48500.

Both Yogi and Yadav teams seem to be following a different, perhaps a divergent strategy. On the one hand, Yadav’s Facebook page and Twitter handle were posting 2-10 posts/ tweets in a day, Yogi’s team went overboard with 5-50 posts/tweets per day. Either, Yogi’s team was under pressure to perform because Yadav’s posts/ tweets were attracting higher engagement or seems to be under instructions to generate ‘numbers’, thus posting even 10s of clippings of a rally!

Overall, the analysis of social media accounts of both Yogi and Yadav shows that while Yadav seems to have matured as far as use of social media is concerned, Yogi, being a monk, seemed to have relied more on physical engagement, leaving his social media team either under pressure to perform or blank as far as the content strategy was concerned.

As for the co-relation between social media and impact on elections is concerned, the results were not in consonance with engagements on social media, as being a comparatively less literate state, Uttar Pradesh prefers physical engagement over the virtual one and that is where Yogi, with over 200 rallies, in comparison of 117 rallies of Akhilesh Yadav, had a substantial edge over Yadav which resulted in comfortable victory to BJP, despite facing worst human crisis of century (covid) and last minutes stage-managed desertion of OBC leaders!


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