As many of you are aware, since social networking began to make its presence felt on the Internet barely ten years ago, it has become one of the most influential forms of communication around the globe. Twitter and Facebook, for example, played a key role in the Arab Spring, which led to such dramatic political changes across North Africa and the Middle East between December 2010 and the end of 2013. Social media enabled disparate groups to communicate with and organize vast swathes of the public, and especially young and well-educated sectors of the community, into a powerful force that even the most repressive and autocratic of regimes found almost impossible to withstand.
Across the entire continent, young Africans have come to rely on social media to stay in touch with friends and learn what is happening in their local community. However, celebrities and politicians also use these sites to inform the public about what they are doing and gain almost instant feedback from their fans and electorate. Living in Nigeria, it is likely that you will already have a deep understanding of how much influence social media can have on major political events. During the 2013 Zimbabwean elections, for example, social commentator “Baba Jukwa’s” Facebook page had no less than 300,000 followers. He became a focal point for members of the electorate eager to learn exactly what policies the country’s politicians were espousing.
In more general terms, it is widely recognized that one of the benefits of social media is that it has put an end to what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, one of Nigeria’s leading writers, calls “the danger of a single story.” In other words, it is no longer possible for governments or multinational companies to embark on controversial projects without risking the wrath of the people. Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, everyone knows what is being planned, and millions of individuals are able to express their views directly to their political representatives at the click of a button.
Social media is also used to raise investment to finance national and international projects, such as the community development schemes organized by Africans in the Diaspora, which received $40,000 from some 234 contributors using crowdfunding techniques. It seems inevitable that if you are living in Nigeria or other rapidly developing African countries you will see and hear much more about crowdfunding as an efficient method of raising money for a whole range of schemes in both the charitable and commercial sectors.
One area that has only recently begun to make its presence felt is blogging; this is despite the fact that it has been shown to be more influential than any other form of social media. 65% of brands make use of blog statistics; 31% of consumers consult blogs when making purchasing decisions, and 86% of influencers use blogs. Some of the most successful Nigerian business people are already keeping in touch with the populace using this form of media; for example, there is the blog of Mr. Folawiyo
; those of young entrepreneurs like Alexander Amosu, one of Africa’s leading luxury designers; and Sim Shagaya, who founded Konga.com, the country’s biggest e-commerce company.
Given the speed at which the country and the entire continent are developing, it is essential that, as a Nigerian, you continue to keep abreast of all the latest developments in the field of social media. Social media is coming to the end of its first decade; just imagine where it will be in another ten years.