Brand Building and Social Media Strategies: 2011 Nigerian Presidential Elections Candidates.

Social media was a major “buzz word” in 2008 in many parts of the world. Nigeria was not much left out as Facebook alone records at least 1,718,000 Nigerian members. Nigerians definitely love to talk, express opinions and live the community life anywhere they go, and this is very obvious in the various conversations carried out online by Nigerians across various nations. Social media marketing has even become another important term in marketing and it seems this strategy is present in every marketing campaign.

Based on recent research carried out by myself and researchers in other countries, social media is mostly used for socializing and communicating with already existing relationships or with people based of similar interests or occupations. It is therefore not uncommon for someone who likes to watch CNN but has no time to watch as before to “like” CNN on Facebook and subscribe to updates from CNN. It is in this same way that one would become a fan of The Simpsons on Facebook, “like” my friend’s well written note or comment on a beautiful picture.

The countdown towards the 2011 presidential elections was quite sudden with aspirants springing up from everywhere with very eventful declarations. Most sudden were the various images, profiles and “conversations carried out by these aspirants on various social media platforms. Funny enough, until now, only one or two candidates had ever been known with a profile on any social media platform. Their presence on these media might be a strategy to reach the youthful demographic. This is not a bad suggestion in 2010. But it raises many questions.

The average Nigerian youth is on the streets looking for jobs or trying to put his/her ideas together to start a small business. These youths make out time and money to use these forms of technology amidst various challenges such as erratic power supply, hunger, job search, ASUU strikes and difficulties which they have come to accept as basic. Some have even gone ahead to create innovative applications through these technologies. While these young men and women have been struggling to be at par with their counterparts in other countries, how many of these candidates have carried out any conversations with them? How many of these young people have been supported, appreciated or even encouraged by these candidates? It takes the same young people to support themselves with programs such as the future awards.

Any young person in their twenties can identify with Milo, coca-cola, and many products that were available for us as we grew up. We are likely to “like” these brands on Facebook or even carry out conversations with them because we recognize their roles in our growth. Many of us cannot even name one project that many of these candidates have carried out and how it affects us. We do not have an idea of what they plan to do to create more job opportunities, better business environment, better health care or even basic education. We would really love to listen to them. But they have let us down too many times and the social media platforms are not going to make the messages and promises come true. Every social media campaign (like any marketing campaign requires consistency).

The lesson for brand builders: build your brand’s quality before attempting to sell. Do not take your audience for granted. The conversation between you and your audience starts before you speak. Most people have “googled” you before actually meeting you. There are no more passive audiences. Walk the talk, because people are watching and the next review might come out before you even release your product.

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