Business & Tech

Impact of Social Media in Nigeria

Communication in Nigeria has evolved over the last four decades; from the postal services and fixed telephone lines of the 1970's, to the integration of radio and optic fiber technology in Nigerian Telecommunications Limited’s (NITEL) system of the 1980’s, to the latest era of the World Wide Web
Communication in Nigeria has evolved over the last four decades; from the postal services and fixed telephone lines of the Post and Telecommunication Division (PT) and the Nigeria External Telecommunication (NET) of the 1970’s, to the integration of radio and optic fiber technology in Nigerian Telecommunications Limited’s (NITEL) system of the 1980’s, to the era of internet cafes and Instant Messaging (IM) on platforms like Yahoo, AOL and MSN of the 1990’s. By the early 2000’s, Nigeria, along with the rest of the developed world, had its own little hut in the global web village. Nigerians were able to easily establish connections with the outside world, in areas of business and academia, as well as on the social platforms of the era – Chat Rooms. The mid-2000’s saw a marked increase in internet accessibility, which in turn sparked an enthusiastic uptake of networking services such as Twitter and Facebook. By 2015, there were over 13 million active social media accounts in Nigeria (a 20% increase from the previous year) and of early 2106, Facebook has over 15 million active accounts in Nigeria alone.

The continuous use of social media has undoubtedly caused a disruption in our daily habits and activities and is now engrained in our everyday lifestyle. Whether in traffic, at the airport, in a classroom, on lunch-break or even surreptitiously in a boardroom meeting, millions of Nigerians invariably find some respite from their mundane routines in the escape known as social media. Platforms used most frequently include professional networking sites (such as LinkedIn), social photo and video sharing platforms (Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram), blogs and news outlets that feature social, political, entertainment and lifestyle influences.

Though social media has its drawbacks with issues such as the reduction in physical communication skills, loss of privacy and cyber-bullying just to mention a few, the usage and increased adoption of social media has also positively impacted the Nigerian way of life. In various ways, social media has been used as a platform to promote healthier lifestyles and improve quality of life. Ronke Edoho, a Nigerian author of the cookbook, Lose it Nigerian, uses her food blog, 9jafoodie, to promote healthy diet plans and lifestyle choices; fitness enthusiasts and instructors, Fabila Fitness and Yes You Cannn, both encourage active lifestyles — a mind-set gaining traction in Nigeria. Also gaining traction, is the use of social media for business relations in the form of advertising, a trend now replacing traditional methods of marketing. Large and small to medium enterprises (SME), societal leaders, brand manufacturers, politicians and businesses owners now need an established social media presence to maintain customer loyalty and to effectively communicate with stakeholders and their target audiences.

Social media platforms also serve as a pivotal stage for civic engagement, political discussions and a cohesive means for citizens to unite for or against certain causes. Furthermore, it has caused an increase in youth inclusiveness in political and socio-economic conversations and discussions. For example, in 2012, when the government of Goodluck Jonathan removed subsidy from petroleum products, causing bouts of nation-wide protests and strike actions, street protests were organized by tech-savvy youths via social media, using the hashtag, #OccupyNigeria. In a matter of time, the hashtag went viral and attracted attention from both the national government, foreign governments and the international community.

Other nation-wide turned world-wide social media incidents include the BringBackOurGirls campaign, a hashtag first credited to Obiageli Ezekwesili, when the insurgent group Boko Haram, kidnapped 276 school girls on April 14th, 2014, from Chibok, a small town in Borno State. The following year, the #NoToSocialMediaBill online protest defended the right to free speech against a proposed bill by Senator Ibn N’Allah that would “Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith.” The bill includes a 2-4 year prison sentence and/or N2 million fine for any “abusive statement” via text or any social media platform. The protesters described the bill as a violation of Section 39 Sub 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as Amended in 2011 which states that “Every Person shall be entitled to Freedom of Expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.” In a way, social media campaigns are quickly replacing traditional street protests, mainly because they are convenient, effective and enable safe, violence-free demonstrations that elicit worldwide responses.

The benefits derived from the free use of social media are numerous and place Nigeria not only in the league of enlightened and dynamic countries but also reflects the changing mindset and progressive attitude of Nigerians. Social Media Week (SMW) Lagos, an international news platform, which curates and shares the best practices of social media, while exploring its impact on culture and society, held the only African-based conference in Lagos, Nigeria, in February 2016. The conference attracted people from various social, cultural and religious backgrounds including students, entrepreneurs, professionals, communication experts and social media enthusiasts. Topics discussed included 7 Ways Government Can Connect with Communities on Facebook, The Future of African Media: Ownership, Six Tools for the African PR Professional and Investing in Home-Grown Social Media Platforms. Programs like the SMW Lagos are able to highlight the benefits and achievements enabled by social media, and also address the missed opportunities experienced by establishments or organizations that fail to implement it. Take for example Nigeria, social media can be effectively utilized in improving work processes in information-heavy industries such as education and health. When utilized effectively, the unrealized potential of social media could be immensely advantageous in developing Nigeria’s economy and its various sectors.

When Zuckerburg established Facebook back in 2004 or when William, Dorsey, Glass and Stone created Twitter in 2006, they could not have fathomed that their innovation of a social space to connect, create and share amongst friends would glue millions of Nigerians to their phones all day, changing the socio-political climate of Africa’s Giant, one post and hashtag at a time. As the Nigerian population continues to grow and technology adoption levels continue to rise, social media will continue to serve as a vital avenue that will shape the opinions of youths and more importantly, allow for direct interactions and conversations in a virtual town hall setting.

Notable Nigerian Twitter Personalities (June 2016)

Social Media Icons
Twitter handle
Twitter Followers
Occupation
1 Don Jazzy @donjazzy 1.6M Producer, Singer
2 Genevive Nnaji @GenevieveNnaji1 1M Actress
3 Atiku Abubakar @Atiku 512K Singer
4 Obiageli Ezekwesili @obyezeks 480K Social Change Advocate
5 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala @NOIweala 439K Politician
6 JJ Omojuwa @Omojuwa 361K Blogger, Public Speaker
7 Aliko Dangote @AlikoDangote 207K Entrepreneur
Tunde Bakare @T_Bakare 205K Pastor
9 Karen Igho @Karen_Igho 158K TV Personality
10 Kanu Nwankwo @papilokanu 135K Soccer Lengend