Social media influencers and politics are mixing, how impactful can the connection be?

While the impact of social media influencers on politics can vary depending on factors such as their reach, credibility, and the nature of their content, their ethics and transparency of influencers' political activities are also subjected to debate, as their motivations and potential conflicts of interest may come into question

Akansha Srivastava
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Last week, the Rajasthan government announced that it would onboard influencers for the upcoming Assembly elections and pay them between Rs 10,000 to Rs 5 lakh for creating content around the state government’s welfare scheme.  

Not just this, recently, content creator Ranveer Allahbadia interviewed Union Ministers Piyush Goyal, S Jaishankar, and Rajeev Chandrasekhar. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan were also interviewed by Raj Shamani. Well, Allahbadia has maintained that he wasn’t paid for doing these interviews. 

As per news reports, Minister Goyal also met close to 50 YouTubers to explore how they could talk about government efforts to promote tourism, handlooms and the handicrafts industry and spread awareness around cybersecurity. 

Earlier in April 2023, Curly Tales Editor-In-Chief, Kamiya Jani and her team created a cultural documentary ‘​​Dharohar Bharat Ki’. As per the Curly Tales website, “the documentary showcases India’s rich heritage and history under the leadership of PM Modi”. The two-part documentary went live on Doordarshan, Aaj Tak and Jio Cinemas. 

It’s not that content creators were never vocal about their political opinions and commentary on government schemes and reforms in the past, the majority of them refrained from this slippery path. But now, all the developments above point at the dawn of the era of the influencer in the political and national policies/welfare schemes landscape.

Social media influencers have gained significant prominence in recent years, and their role in politics has also become increasingly relevant. 

Danish Malik

Danish Malik, Co-founder and CEO of Boomlet Group, said, “The content available across social media spans various genres and trends, providing an ideal opportunity to subtly convey messages without resorting to overt advertising. This approach often yields a more impactful outcome within a shorter time frame. As a result, even government bodies and departments such as the Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR), State Tourism Department, State Police, and the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI), among others, have been drawn to harnessing these modern techniques for effective communication and promotion.”

Bitesh Kumar Singh

According to Bitesh Kumar Singh, Founder and CEO, SocioClout, partnerships with influencers will help government and political parties to connect with the Gen Z audience between the age group of 15-25. 

He said, “This age group has traditionally shown little interest in politics and often holds negative perceptions about the subject. However, influencers' relatability and authenticity offer a valuable opportunity for politicians and the government at large to bridge the gap with these younger voters, who might otherwise feel disconnected from conventional political channels. By collaborating with influencers, politicians can effectively communicate their policies, initiatives, and campaigns directly to them, bypassing traditional media outlets.”

Additionally, the rise of podcasts as a popular medium for communication adds to the potential for such partnerships between influencers and politicians. Singh explained, “With the 2024 elections on the horizon, we can expect these collaborations to become increasingly prevalent, as both parties recognise the mutual benefits of engaging with the younger audience through this approach.”

Here are some ways in which social media influencers can impact politics:

1. Amplifying political messages

2. Shaping public opinion

3. Mobilising and organising supporters

4. Holding public figures accountable

5. Fundraising and advocacy

6. Providing alternative perspectives

Malik said that collaborations with influencers will surely help the department or the political party to convey their message at an even faster pace to a desired audience with their choice of narrative. “Additionally, influencers benefit from increased trust, credibility, and perceived value, while also having the opportunity to contribute to nation-building efforts,” he added. 

It's important to note that the impact of social media influencers on politics can vary depending on factors such as their reach, credibility, and the nature of their content. Additionally, the ethics and transparency of influencers' political activities are also subjects of debate, as their motivations and potential conflicts of interest may come into question.

While social media content creators, including influencers, can have a positive impact on politics, there are also potential negative effects to consider:

Here are some ways in which content creators can go wrong in this whole process:

1. Spread of misinformation

2. Polarisation and echo chambers

3. A superficial understanding of complex issues

Singh explained, “Influencers may not possess the necessary expertise or knowledge to thoroughly analyse complex political issues, potentially leading to misinformation. Hence, it is important that influencers have access to full information.”

4. Influence based on popularity rather than expertise

5. Influence of undisclosed interests

6. Toxic political discourse and harassment

7. Lack of opportunity for influencers

Explaining the above point, Malik said, “It is often observed that when a brand engages in a collaboration with a particular influencer, they tend to avoid approaching the same set of influencers for their subsequent campaigns. Similarly, competing entities may miss out on the opportunity and refrain from engaging with those influencers, instead opting to pursue alternatives they perceive as better. In the context of politics, if certain politicians are associated with specific influencers, it can create significant obstacles for other party members, bureaucrats, and even brands seeking to connect with the same influencers. As a result, potential opportunities may be lost.”

Therefore, it is essential to critically evaluate the content shared by social media influencers and approach political discussions with a discerning mindset, fact-checking information and seeking diverse perspectives from reputable sources.

Singh emphasised that politicians and government should give influencers full freedom to create content as per their style so that it doesn’t look scripted. “It is crucial for politicians and the government to provide them with accurate information while still allowing them the creative freedom to communicate in their unique and genuine voice. By allowing influencers to express their perspectives and opinions within the boundaries of factual accuracy, the content they produce can resonate better with their followers,” he said. 

Going forward, for Malik, the partnership between political entities and influencers is likely to become even more pronounced, as they recognise the value of this dynamic medium in capturing the attention and support of the masses. He said that this participation is likely to evolve into a more advanced level, characterised by the implementation of year-long advocacy campaigns. 

He commented, “In this scenario, political parties will strive to gain a first-mover advantage by securing influential content creators through bulk deals or establishing long-term associations with them. By doing so, they will effectively create a permanent campaigning track and establish a barrier for other parties seeking to engage the same set of influencers. Consequently, this approach will necessitate a form of influencer cadre management within the party's campaign strategy.”

content creators influencers Ranveer Allahbadia social media social media influencers Raj Shamani Curly Tales Rajasthan government government political parties Rajeev Chandrasekhar Shivraj Singh Chouhan Nitin Gadkari