#BringBackOurGirls: A Case for Online Advocacy

BBOG

For many years, I worked in the Research Department of Alder Consulting, a leading creative intelligence firm in Nigeria. I left to head the Consulting unit. Whilst in Research, I learnt a valuable lesson – It is not enough to collate or analyse data. Its true value lies in interpreting and using it to drive critical decision making. Data is an objective benchmark and helps governments, companies and individuals to make informed choices, free of personal bias.

On May 20th, 2014, I came across an interesting story by Think Progress tagged, “How The World Quickly Stopped Caring About The Kidnapped Nigerian Girls, In Seven Charts”.  The story tracked online conversations around the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria on April 14, 2014.  Analysing Google Trends, Think Progress was able to determine that online chatter about #BringBackOurGirls had waned globally.

Google Trends_BBOGAlthough total tweets about #BringBackOurGirls were over 3.5 million at the time, there was a decline in the daily tweets.

Tweets_BBOG

As social media noise about #BringBackOurGirls diminished, it is important to note that on-the-ground action still continued. On May 22nd, there was a march to Aso Rock, home of the Nigerian President. There were also ongoing government negotiations and weekly meetings by the Obiageli Ezekwesili led citizens and parents pressure group. facebook_872471906

The lesson for advocacy organisations, is that in any issues-based campaign, the window for mass online support is limited and must be maximised. Oragnisations must be clear about the outcomes they desire and drive those outcomes while the topic is still hot.

For #BringBackOurGirls, I believe some of the key objectives of the promoters were met. Military interventions by domestic and foreign forces were galvanised; religious leaders were mobilised to pray and advocacy groups pressured Government for the facts. Importantly, there is a feeling that victims of terrorism in Nigeria are no longer alone.  Perhaps none of this would have happened without the #BringBackOurGirls online campaign. Citizens of Nigeria are now strongly advocating for a complete eradication of Boko Haram (the terrorist group responsible for the kidnap), and not the return of the Chibok schoolgirls alone. No longer are Nigerians satisfied with just moving on, when they hear of bomb blasts like those in Nyanya or Kano or Jos.

Finally, Nigerians have proven that social media is a potent tool of advocacy. It can mobilise nations and ignite action.

#Socialmedia is a potent advocacy tool. It can mobilise nations and ignite action. Click To Tweet


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