Candidates thrive on live online discussions

Moderators play a balancing game, treating supporters and critics equally

Social media ‘war rooms’ shaped by professional campaigners for candidates in the local body election have started hosting live chats and online discussions, with campaigning entering the next phase. The goal this time is to assess the impact of the first round of campaigns and feel the voters’ pulse.

Social media strategists anchoring the live interactive discussions carefully defend their clients from unwanted arguments and allegations. The moderators play a balancing game, treating the supporters and critics equally.

A minor risk

“We know the risk of hosting live interactions since the candidate’s political opponents too might sign in and fire counterarguments, which in turn might provoke the candidate or their supporters. When things heat up, our moderators deploy trained supporters to divert the discussion to a healthier track,” says N. Navas, a digital war room operator in Kozhikode district.

Short voice messages, video clips, well-edited online posters, and digital election manifesto are used by the operators to set the mood for interactive discussions on specific topics.

Personalised messages

Apart from Facebook pages and Instagram accounts for live sessions, there are now 24×7 active WhatsApp groups to give instant response to voters’ comments. Personalised online messages too are common in Kozhikode’s rural areas. Mostly, the target group in such campaigns is young voters. Video and voice call features of social media apps are very effective tools.

“If social media platforms were not there, this maiden battle would have been tough for me,” says T.T. Sanjay, a candidate in home quarantine. The 21-year-old who tested positive for COVID-19 says he liberally puts to use his social media skills to reach out to voters. His rivals in the ward at Olavanna are experienced, and a tough competition awaits the youth.

The ‘real’ feel

However, T. Raneesh, another candidate from Kozhikode’s Puthiyara ward, feels that virtual campaigns can never replace the door-to-door ones. “Only people we know personally will favourably respond to our virtual campaign. I am keen to explore the best of both options,” he adds.

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