I wrote this write-up for a research journal during May 2012. I am now publishing it on my blog in parts.
2011 MASS UPRISINGS: SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS - PART-V
And then came the next big spurt in the social media activity: August 16 fast at the Ramleela Ground in Delhi began with the historic blunder of the Manmohan Singh government. As if the drama behind giving the nod to the venue was not enough, Anna Hazare was arrested early in the morning of August 16 and suddenly, the government found it was nailed. What followed was a public fury. It poured on streets. It poured on television. It swept the online sphere and kept bulging on as the movement grew. Let’s see how it fared.
Social media trends during the August fast:
- Fan following of the official Facebook page of ‘India Against Corruption’ (IAC) (Facebook.com/IndiaCOR) zoomed by a whopping figure of 2.13 Lakh. The page had 2.18 Lakh fans which reached to figure of 5.01 Lakh on August 28. Over 53,000 fans joined the page on the first day, i.e., August 16 itself.
- Other unofficial pages supporting the ant-corruption movement saw their number going up by a significant margin like the page ‘Join Anna Hazare’s Fast to Bring the Jan Lokpal Bill’ saw the fan numbers shooting from 38,000 fans on August 17 to over 59,000 fans on August 29.
- On Twitter, tweets revolving around key words like Anna Hazare, Ramleela Ground, Jan Lokpal and Team Anna members, were the dominating trend. “More than 1.7 lakh tweets mentioned 'Anna Hazare', 1.5 lakh tweets mentioned 'Jan Lokpal' and 32,000 tweets referred 'Ramlila Maidan' during August 16-27” said the ‘afaqs’ analysis on the issue.
- Official Twitter handle of IAC (Twitter.com/Janlokpal;@Janlokpal) saw its followers jump from 35,000 Lakh on August 15 to 1.09 Lakh on August 28.
- Klout score of @Janlokpal reached to 80 (higher than that of Amitabh Bachchan) from 68 as a result of the fast at the Ramleela Ground. (Klout.com scales the reach and influence of a Twitter handle).
- According to Pinstorm, a digital brand management firm, the Lokpal movement became the highest ever entry on the ‘India Influencer’ list. The India Influencer list tracks over 3,000 Indian online entities daily and ranks their influence based on their impact on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn besides others. This top 10 ranking puts the Jan Lokpal movement as being more influential online in India as compared to established online brands like Vodafone, MTV India.
Anna Hazare becomes a household name: And this online surge was in tandem with the 24/7 live telecast by the mainstream media and minute by minute updates on the news websites with a significant news space in national dailies. This mix was potent enough to colour the urban India in the Anna hue. He replaced entertainment icons of the country to become top newsmaker while Lokpal Bill became the most sought-after search string on the search engine Yahoo India in a year-end review conducted by entertainment portal Yahoo India. Facebook had already declared him and the Lokpal Bill as most mentioned in status updates. On Google search, Anna Hazare topped the list of ‘Fastest Rising People’, a list that charts the trends for the people who have gained interest of Internet users. And just in eight months since the April fast, Anna Hazare had become a name in the conscious of the majority of Indians.
A wide youth base and their social media preferences – the initial push: Not just India but the whole world is betting on a prosperous India in future that will be shaped by the largest working-age population as well as the largest youth population in the world. Its 65 per cent of the population is under the age of 35. Their voice matters. They are angry on the political developments. An India Today opinion poll conducted by the marketing research agency Synovate among the age-group 18-25 found Anna Hazare defeating Rahul Gandhi by a huge margin of 76-24 when they were asked for electoral match-up between prominent Team Anna members and leading politicians. And what happens when this youth base is initiated into a movement to bring the change? The movement sees a rapid mobilization.
Armed with the gazettes and spending significant hours of the day on the social media, it was the support of the youth base that galvanized the public opinion in the initial phase of the anti-corruption movement, be it in the social media sphere or on the ground. Findings of a nationwide survey targeting the 18-35 year age-group by an agency India Biz News highlight it. According to the report, 76 per cent believe that social media can ‘change the world’. Anti-corruption emerged as the most prominent social cause endorsed by the 32 per cent respondents. Another analysis by Deccan Chronicle observes, “Young people have been particularly enthused by the campaign against corruption spearheaded by social reformer Anna Hazare, and have been coming together to join the anti-graft fight in what could be seen as a rebirth of student activism not seen since the 60s and 70s.”
Coupled with rapid Telecom-Internet growth, the initial push became a larger movement, and is poised to grow: The initial push soon became the movement of all age-groups with continued mainstream mass media coverage and a strong chatter for the movement on the social media platforms. Urban population has now significant access to the Internet platforms, be it the Broadband or the mobile Internet. Figures confirm it. India has currently over 100 million Internet users and Google expects it reach at 300 million users mark by 2014. Google is banking on the rapid increase in high-speed wireless Internet infrastructure and cheaper smartphones. "Despite a lot of the infrastructure challenges we have as a country, 100 million Indians are online, they're spending a huge amount of time online and they're doing a varied set of things online," says Rajan Anandan, who took over Google's India operations in March 2011.
India is the third largest Internet market in the world. Last three years have seen the Internet penetration increasing rapidly in the country. In 2007, it was 3.7 per cent of the population that jumped to almost double to 7 per cent in 2009. Though there were pangs of the global economic recession, this figure jumped to 8.5 per cent penetration in 2010. The latest report of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) says of 13 per cent increase in 2011 over the last year. The total Internet users are expected to be 121 million by 2011 year-end. Already having over 900 million telecom subscribers, the Internet growth is bound to explode in the country. India’s telecom density of 76 saw a significant jump from 60.99 per cent telecom density with 723.38 million telecom subscribers in September 2010. In September 2010, the urban telecom density was 137.25 that tell one out of four urbanites holds multiple mobile connections. Of all the Internet access, nine per cent users accessed the Internet from their mobile devices. Rajan Anandan predicts that more than 300 million people in India would be hooked on to mobile internet by the year 2015.
With threshold level of smartphone prices crashing down in the near future as Rajan Anandan puts it, expect more of BlackBerry messages, more of tweets, more of Facebook updates, more of LinkedIn updates, more of YouTube video sharing, more of active blogging in the real time while on the go making the social media the preferred platform to raise voice on any issue of social concern.