Elections Are Not Won On Social Media But 60% Of Those Who Influence The Electorate Are

By Alozie James-Patrick

Social media has emerged as a pivotal battleground to mould public opinion and set an agenda. Social media has become a very competitive tool. Hundreds of political candidates and opinion moulders jostle for the attention of the same audience.

This poses the challenge of creative online crowdsourcing and increases the power of social media influencers. To a considerable extent, the outcome of the 2023 elections may be influenced majorly by social media. Example, is Obidient factor.

The role of media in politics and power struggle earned them the status of “the fourth estate of the realm”. It is almost as if there is no politics without the media. The media disseminate political information, frame messages, and interpret political events for their audience.

However, “the media does not tell people what to think but what to think about”. The traditional media mediates and gatekeeps information to the audience. This gatekeeping function makes the media so powerful that they set agenda for societies.

Change has come. Social media is the new kid on the block, and it has radically democratised the public sphere. With one thousand naira data on your smartphone, you can start a political storm that will have a volcanic impact. Social media is so powerful that any political actor discountenancing them does that at his or her own peril.

Although it has not entirely replaced the traditional media as the fulcrum of political activism, it is the melting pot of political debates and the crucibles of political wrestling in recent times.

In our society, social media has become very potent as weapons of politics. Statistically, there were 40 million social media users in Nigeria. Therefore, it is safe to assume that most voters have access to social media, meaning that social and online media have almost replaced the combined mix of other media as critical avenues of communication in social and political matters.

Social media can be a force for democratic good and a bulwark against autocracy. It provides political actors with platforms for routine political communication between elections to offer unmediated and direct contact to connect leaders and citizenry, and re-energise the political environment.

Nigerian politicians have increasingly used social media for routine political communication to link with their supporters directly.

The jury is out on the role of social media in influencing political outcomes; however, the potency of social media to affect and determine voting behaviour may be limited but significant.

Social media had come of age, and instead of the dominance of that space by young millennials and young adults, we observed that even older people were relying on them for political information and debates.

News and messages quickly go viral through the platforms, with significant consequences. The government hardly controls the social media, and the open space that results is a marketplace of ideas and opinions. Advocates for or against a political actor, party, and politicians, easily contend to win over people to their side via social media.

Social media has afforded activists, whistle-blowers and opposition politicians, whose voices were stifled by the government in power the opportunity to engage with the people. It became challenging to conceal potential harmful information.

The advent of social media has changed how politics is being organised and conducted and the nature of political communication in our societies.

As candidates campaign and dish out their agendas, choose the best.

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