Narendra Modi, the Gujarat Chief Minister has always been active on social media. He has an official Facebook page  Narendra Modi, as well as an active Twitter account @narendramodi.  But this time he took his social media activity one step ahead and decided to interact with a live audience by organizing a Google+ hangout for 2 hours on August 31. The session was  on «Strong and  Glorious India Long Cherished by Swami Vivekananda».

There was live broadcasting of the session on the CM’s YouTube channel and his Google+ page. The political leader was not at all perturbed by the volley of question hurled at him and maintained his calm while answering them.

Google’s blogpost speaks of 20, 000 questions posed to Modi while the state government sources revealed 6500 questions were received. More than the figures, what is there to analyze, is the fact that this was «up close and personal» moment for the people with the minister with the questions not only sticking to politics or economy but also delving on his diet and his choice of short sleeved kurtas.

What is unique about this?

Modi became the first Indian politician to debut on Google+. Google India’s data speaks of 82, 000 people across 116 countries watching the conversation live through YouTube. Earlier we have seen people from the political sphere engaging on various social networks but this was first time in India that a leader has utilized the power of social media to get in touch with the people. Before this US President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had engaged with the audiences like this and Modi is considered the third politician to get into this mode of active social networking.

That he understood the power of social media and decided to utilize it in an optimum way goes a long way to prove a point that is political awareness can be well achieved if you are in sync with the changing times. It may be perceived that he is preparing for the 2014 elections or he chose an opportune moment to go national on the day when the decision on NarodiyaPatiyamassacre case was taken by the trial court. What comes out clear in the entire scenario is the fact that Modi was looking for branding and he thought it the right time to connect to the younger generation through social media rather than hosting press conferences or giving speeches. It is evident Modi is all out for image makeover projecting himself as the future leader of India and social media has been his bandwagon for that. We can very well understand that the selection of questions by his team and Google was strategic and it clearly avoided some sticky issues.

Positioning Brand Modi was done very craftily and including Ajay Devgan, the actor, in the session was like icing on the cake to add glamor quotient to the session. The results: #Modihangout was trending on Twitter all throughout the day Mentions on Twitter peaked one day before the session on August 30 when 18137 mentions on Twitter were recorded whereas on August 31, 9169 mentions of the hash tag were recorded (Source: Topsy)

The video of the Google+ hangout at his official YouTube channel shows 435, 267 views Interestingly what is also to note here is there has been good branding of Google+ through Modi. Google+ has been pushed to the background at least in India what with the people here finding Facebook, Twitter and Orkut more convenient. Google has been all out promoting its social networking sites and what better way to promote in India than to be the medium of interaction for a popular leader. Modi’s words,

«I am thankful to my friends at Google+; Google+ is the new pulse of the globe»
set the ball rolling for Google+ branding. Does Google+ need promotion? It does and so there are Evangelists who promote about the social networking site and this time it was Modi who was the Evangelist for Google+. Will the strategy work?

For first time this strategy will work as people get the feel of talking to their leader and engagement factor drives the traffic.

But political discussions to succeed on social media have to be real and not doctored. Leaders will have to be ready for some uncomfortable questions. Google’s blog post earlier stated that 5 million people watched the conversation then corrected the goof up with figures of 82000 people. There were two figures regarding the number of questions asked as well. If stats are not authentic then it is not going to go down well with the audiences. Leveraging social media to turn listeners into voters involves a different type of strategy as here ROI involves influencing people’s decision and that comes only with trust and how much comfortable people are with the leaders. We hope to see many more such kind of interactions in future but if it is for short term success then it will lose its essence over time.