7 social media lessons from the 2015 General Elections in Nigeria

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After the just concluded 2015 General Elections  in Nigeria, many successes have been recorded and new barriers broken while some have set new standards. This was evident in the increased involvement of social media in monitoring, evaluating and sharing of election results and happenings.

Politicians, political parties, civil society, local and foreign observers including international organisations used various social media tools to facilitate their involvement in the electoral process. While some are celebrating successes some are counting losses. Here are the lessons that have been brought to the fore due to the increased use of the social media in the 2015 General Elections and should be taken seriously.

Lesson 1: Building true following takes time

Social media is a platform for a community of people tied to an interest. Social media would have provided a very rich platform for some stakeholders if they had made use of this idea. Kaduna Governor-elect Nasir el-Rufai who tweets to over half a million followers on @elrufai handle shows that rich communities are built over time and with constant engagement. He joined Twitter in February 2009. Stakeholders like political parties, and politicians especially, should learn to start building a community long before the election year. This will help to form formidable followers on the social media platform on the long run that will stay, even in the rainy day when some may decide to shift base.

Lesson 2: Learn to create identity

One critical factor that delivers most on social media is “identity”. President Goodluck Jonathan learnt this very early on in his presidency and not only is his Facebook page verified, it has 1.8m likes to show. Identity helps to create a persona that can be followed by social media natives. An identity that says something out of the usual and that is able to captivate and convince followers. Stakeholders in the electoral process should learn to create an identity that can be envied on social media; tools such as hashtags, photos or logos can help to enhance your identity on social media. Contact a specialist for more.

Lesson 3: He who fails will learn to plan

The social media space in Nigeria is increasingly becoming very competitive with some on the fast lane and some on the slow lane. This increase is made possible by the increased internet penetration in the country. Therefore any serious campaign must require a good social media plan. Stakeholders must learn how to draw up a social media plan with timelines that will help to encapsulate very effective and all social media activities, messages, collaborations etc. This will prevent waste of resources and get the right message to the right persons at the right time.

Lesson 4: Hire a professional for consistency

At this stage stakeholders must understand that their presence on social media must be monitored and guided properly in order to achieve the desired objectives. A social media specialist or professional who understands the different peculiarities of the various platforms and is experienced enough to actualise this goal should be hired. The duty of the professional is to enhance the visibility of the personal or group identity, create and disseminate coherent and congruent messages on the right platform at the right time to the right people at the right places.

Lesson 5: Ignore distractions

According to Will Harris Chief Executive of the PR agency Mission Media in an article Strategy over Tactic “If you  only react , on the one hand if you are disrupting your opponent, that’s brilliant but every day you don’t get your story over, its good for the other side”. Stakeholders must learn that social media is never the best option for hate speeches or fighting of the opposition, you will end up missing your aim and then your messages will be lost and you will rather strengthen the opposition. General Muhammadu Buhari’s popularity was boosted by ridiculous social media campaigns such as the Bokohari that tried unsuccessfully to link the retired general to terror group Boko Haram. Buhari’s response on the other hand demonstrated that, in spite of all antagonism, you should use social media to focus on your core message, and your followers are unlikely to decamp.

Lesson 6: Balance mainstream with social

Don’t over rate social media. Stakeholders should also learn not to overestimate social media. It will never provide all the solutions to your media challenges neither will it offer the best instance to meet the audience you want all the time. The professional should be able to offer advice on how to balance social media with the mainstream or traditional media in order to have an overall effective media presence.

Lesson 7: Like the opposition

Don’t be the alien; follow your opposition on Twitter, like them on Facebook, Instagram and on any social media platform you know they have got. Don’t worry, they know you are following them. The major reason for following them is to keep track with what they have got to offer, so you can re-strategise when you need to, not by negative campaigning but by constructive criticism and other tactic.

Simsim Jaga
Mfon is a public relations practitioner with specialisation in media relations and content strategy.

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