Social Media helps us look beyond the narrow; it helps us do great things.
by Chude Jideonwo
My team stands at a truly privileged position: with YNaija, one of the nation’s most popular sites according to Alexa, we are at the centre of new media content; with Red Media, we have applied new media strategies for a variety of organisations, and with The Future Project, we have applied both for the causes and issues we are passionate about.
Still, what I would call our proudest accomplishment, if that were the right word to use, is founding EnoughisEnough Nigeria in 2010 – now managed by an independent board. Purely a child of necessity, and spontaneous in origin, its phenomenal growth in the past two years has taught me crucial lessons in advocacy and effectiveness.
First, that Social Media, and whatever tools are invented after this, can be immensely powerful if channeled right, and that collaboration is the new Black.
The historic 2010 EnoughisEnough rallies in Abuja and then Lagos were the first advocacy platforms to launch a full-scale social media strategy here in Nigeria. Before this, there was of course social media use, including with The Future Project, which was an early adopter for Facebook. But with those rallies there were many firsts: a Nigerian advocacy campaign trended on Twitter, a rally was live-streamed online, and the mobilization for the thousands that turned out was online-based.
The use of social media wasn’t driven by a fad; it was a question of necessity: what is the most effective way to achieve our big vision? The decision was easy: one, our audience is there; two, you don’t need deep pockets. Critics are quick to tell you about the issue of low internet penetration in Nigeria, and perhaps they are right. But that critique seeks to obscure a thankfully more stubborn truth – the percentage of Nigerians that actually use social media is a critical mass; they can drive the conversation and they can make change happen.
Let me bore you with some of the detail: Facebook penetration in Nigeria is 3.32% compared to the country’s population and 11.49% in relation to number of Internet users. From 400,000 in 2008, the total number of Facebook users in Nigeria is at least 5,052,300 and grew by more than 684,400 in the last 6 months. In the ranking all Facebook statistics by country, Nigeria ranks #32 globally and #3 in Africa, according to SocialBakers. When Pastor Chris Oyakhilome founded social media site Yookos, it quickly garnered a followership of almost 7 million.
According to Portland Communications, which is based in Kenya, Nigerians are the third most active Twitter users in Africa and ranked 8th in the world. We aren’t such huge fans of Google Plus, but we still have 75,000 users, according to PlusDemographics.
Many people access the Internet through their phones of course, and Nigeria has the fastest growing mobile market in the continent. According to the Nigerian Communications Commission’s recently released statistics for April 2012, the country has 99.1 million active subscriptions in the GSM and the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators’ domain. As at January 24, 2012 Blackberry users in Nigeria hit the 2.4 million.
Of course, with 45.04 million people using the Internet, Nigeria has been named among the 20 top user-countries. According to Internet World Stat, Nigeria occupies the 11th position, just immediately after France, which has Internet population of 50.29 million. This rating means that two per cent of global Internet population of 2.29 billion people is Nigerian. On a population estimate of 170.12 million people, Nigeria’s Internet penetration ratio was put at 26.5 per cent – so 26.5 persons out of every 100 Nigerians use the Internet. Nigerians who have access to the Internet, have surpassed even South Africa, Africa’s largest economy. Almost 40 percent of all Internet traffic from Africa comes from Nigeria.
So in terms of reach, Nigeria is now both Africa’s largest mobile and Internet market.
So for us – as it should be for many change-makers – the question was simple: if the result we seek is impact, then what is the most effective way of achieving it? Not an argument over traditional vs new or anything like that. Over the past few months, adopters have seen that new media are a massively effective tool for social mobilization across issues and causes – a point proven in the biggest way by the #OccupyNigeria #FuelSubsidyRemoval campaign in January. Those who mocked the movement said that online campaigns couldn’t drive the mass, saw hundreds of thousands of people as evidence to the contrary.
What drove #OccupyNigeria, as well as the principal driver of success for EiE (a coalition of at least 12 youth-focused organisations) was the power of collaboration. Even for those who don’t general use these tools – you are able to reach them through Social Influencers: so you can meet an un-connected mother through her connected son as it happened in Kano, for instance. The power of social media facilitates collaboration in a way that generations of CSOs and change markers before now would surely be jealous of.
Working on the WhatAboutUs? Youth Presidential Debate last year – what was incredibly striking for me was how the collaborators didn’t have to meet physically, scattered as we were across time zones. Meetings were handled on Skype, documents were reviewed on Google Docs, the word spread on a network of blogs. Different organizations, with different primary goals came together to work on one primary goal – because we all have the same ultimate goal: positive societal change.
It is something that has worried me about the CSO culture in Nigeria – why is it so difficult to break down the walls and co-operate on big ideas and big visions? If truly our purpose is impact, then collaboration across fields should not be a problem in any way. Especially now that social media have made it easy and many projects have excelled with it.
There’s ample evidence of this. EnoughisEnough’s election monitoring app ReVoDa was successful only through a powerful online/offline crowdsourcing model strung across the country. ReclaimNaija, which we worked for during the last elections also achieved its impressive success with an offline/online model that fed from offline first. But in each case, there was synergy and there was collaboration.
The adoption of social media is not a matter of coolness but a matter of function. As I have repeatedly advised CSOs, you don’t operate a Twitter account just because it’s what everyone’s talking about. There are a multiplicity of platforms very useful for you that you can find and use – for some people, videos can be their forte and thus YouTube, some need only blogs, others need only Facebook, and yet others should do nothing more than sms campaigns. With bulk sms companies, you can send message at once to the people who need to hear it directly.
For instance, I tell people that the BlackBerry is a powerful message tool in Nigeria, that even I haven’t completely explored. YNaija’s official BlackBerry phones has almost 2,000 members. If you are a small NGO in a community, and most of those people use a BlackBerry, then by all means you should host drive your campaign there. Send them broadcasts. The People’s Parliament powered a debate last year with presidential campaign volunteers that was driven by a BlackBerry group – and I think those people have now transmuted into a group called the PDP Youth Circuit.
And, by God, if none of these tools are good for your target audience, then use the original social media – your mouth!
Seriously though, that model of using these democratized tools for impact continues to inspire. It worked for #ABSURape – an issue kicked off by Linda Ikeji, powered by Project Alert, amplified by EiE and ultimately brought to the attention of the Minister and the President, who was asked about it by foreign media at the G20 summit last year. #OccupyNigeria was perhaps the ultimate demonstration of this – from Victoria Island through Surulere to Ibadan.
There have been others – the Co-Creation Hub’s crowd-sourcing to rebuild the rain –destroyed roof of the Military Barracks in Yaba, the effort to save a young man called Oke, that was driven on Twitter and led to the Delta State Government’s involvement, the Social Media Conference hosted recently in Abuja by the Yar’Adua Centre and the recent #DanaCrashAction, where relied material was co-ordinated and mobilized primarily, perhaps wholly, though social media.
Interestingly, the demand for accountability and the eventual publishing of a report detailing how the monies and contributions were spent came through an outcry on social media – showing you its effectiveness across the value chain.
It didn’t matter that NLI is not a political organization when it joined What About Us?, it didn’t matter that Paradigm Initiative Nigeria wasn’t a rape NGO to be involved in the RapeWalks, it matters little that AIESEC Nigeria is focused on education when it got involved in #ProtectTheCorpers. The world now needs big ideas and transformational visions and that needs linking arms across borders – social media makes that possible.
Yes, we must continue to dig from the spots we have chosen and are equipped for. But every now and again, we must find causes bigger than ourselves and be part of movements that advance our communities.
Social Media helps us look beyond the narrow; it helps us do great things.
It is not the alpha and omega of course, but its possibilities for driving and accomplishing ambitious, wide-ranging change are almost endless. The last great excuse that stops us from truly changing the world has just been pulled down.
Being text of a Keynote Speech given by Chude Jideonwo, Executive Director of The Future Project at the USAID/IRI Social Media Training for CSOs and PWDs Workshop on 16th July 2012 | Abuja, Nigeria