When you think of phrases to describe Narendra Modi, social media savvy is probably not the first term that leaps to mind. Nevertheless, the Indian Prime Minister is building a reputation for himself as something of a PR Guru, carrying out a number of smart, simple and very successful PR stunts in recent months.
Recently, Modi created a social media frenzy when he rode the Delhi metro with commuters. Surprising metro officials and the travelling public alike, he engaged the passengers in conversation and even posed for selfies during the 8.5 mile journey.
This is astute PR work at its best, producing real results in terms of social media attention. In sharing pictures of himself on the train, he gained a splendid 36,100 Instagram likes and his tweet describing the journey as ‘wonderful’ was retweeted 2,500 times. Clearly, in adopting his current PR and social media strategy, Modi is endearing himself to much of the Indian electorate active on social media.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Modi bring out his social media tricks and ‘unscheduled’ public appearances. On International Yoga Day in June, Mr Modi surprised participants by leading some exercises in a class open to the public and made sure to speak to schoolchildren on the eve of this month’s Teacher’s Day. Maybe this is why he has around 38 million total followers on Twitter and Facebook. The only political leader with a larger social media following is Barack Obama.
Whatever people think of his policies, Modi has a natural grasp for PR and social media. His status as one of Time’s 30 most influential people on the internet is very well deserved.
It seems UK politicians could learn a lot from Mr Modi’s use of social media. How could we forget Emily Thornberry, who was accused of snobbery and promptly resigned from the Shadow Cabinet after tweeting an image of a house decked in St George flags with a white van in the drive way. Or perhaps former Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, whose first foray into the world of social media was lacking imagination to say the least. After joining Twitter in 2011, Balls christened his account by tweeting his own name. UK Prime Minister David Cameron does not have a clean record when it comes to social media gaffes either. When promoting his government’s latest benefits cap, Mr Cameron accidentally tweeted an account spoofing the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, giving an account mocking the Conservative government a massive boost.
In a political era where news travels faster than ever, politicians around the world should take some tips from Narendra Modi on trying to engage their electorate.