WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thoughtful construction of messages on Twitter has helped Prime Minister Narendra Modi build a powerful online brand and emerge as a techno-savvy global leader, a U.S. university study conducted by an Indian American professor has said.
In a latest study based on the analysis of more than 6,000 tweets by Modi over a five-year period, Joyojeet Pal, an assistant professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan, said his social media image has become all the more important, because he has virtually shunned traditional media.
"Thoughtful construction of messages on Twitter has helped Modi build a powerful online brand, allowing him to overcome a problematic past and emerge as a techno-savvy global leader who speaks directly to his electorate," said Pal.
Yet he comes across as the most interactive prime minister India has ever had, Pal said.
"If you want to listen to Modi, please go to his social media feed, whether you are a citizen, a print reporter or a television channel," said Pal, whose study has been published in Economic and Political Weekly.
"The social media feed has become the primary source for the Prime Minister's opinions," he added.
"As the leader of India, his tone has changed to that of a benevolent ruler — more congratulatory, and worded to inspire. Retweeting this is seen as a celebration of India," Pal said.
The research also points out a fundamental change in the way the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party campaigned in the last elections with Modi at the helm.
"Traditionally, BJP has had a strong party philosophy. The leader, however strong, remains secondary to the lotus, the symbol of the party. In this election, the entire social media discussion was about Modi rather than about the party," he said.
A good example of this is the #SelfieWithModi campaign, Pal added.
People took selfies at voting booths with cutouts of Modi showing the black voting ink mark on their finger and using the hashtag to post the pictures.
This innovative way of using the hashtag let the followers feel a sense of direct participation and contribution to the leader's initiative, a unique use of Twitter by a political leader.
As Prime Minister, almost every tweet posted on @narendramodi handle has been retweeted and favorited at least 1,000 times, Pal said.
Noting that India is not like the U.S. where the head of government is expected to routinely show up at a news conference, Pal said by using his own social media for messaging, Modi has been able to control his message, creating positive, non-controversial tweets.