Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi engaged with celebrities across different fields effectively on social media in the run-up to the 2014 general elections to raise his visibility and further his electoral ambitions, as per a US study. Joyojeet Pal, an associate professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, examined more than 9,000 tweets from @narendramodi between February 2009 and October 2015 to research Modi’s engagement with Indian public figures before and after elections.
As per the study, ‘Brand Modi: Decoding social media engagement with celebrities’, there were three distinct phases of engagement that happened in the six years for which he studied Modi’s tweets.
It was noticed in the first phase, Modi reached out to Amitabh Bachchan, businessman Narayana Murthy, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. “By engaging with them, he presented the idea that people outside his core support group and with broad followings were willing to engage with him,” Pal said.
Around 2013, his approach moved to getting support for his campaign by referring to various celebrities in his tweets, posing with them, and in some cases, getting their outright endorsement for the campaign. During this phase, celebrity engagement was mainly through pictures showing affiliation.
The efforts rounded off post-election when Modi called on celebrities primarily as champions for his initiatives.
According to Pal, this was the phase when Modi presented his initiatives as campaigns with national appeal rather than something imposed on the country.
This, Pal said, was particularly seen with Swachh Bharat, a national movement to clean up India’s roads and infrastructure, and, subsequently, with demonetisation. Celebrity engagement at these points presents the views of a collaborative, thoughtful leader. Number of Modi’s Twitter followers stands at 46.6 million, and he continues to engage with celebrities. Ahead of the 2019 elections, Modi has been increasingly reaching out to Bollywood celebrities to urge citizens to cast their vote.