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1.1.1 Introduction

The internet and technology have exposed the majority of the world's population to many interactive platforms where various types of information are exchanged, which may have a substantial impact on human behaviour, decision-making, and judgement. The internet is without a doubt one of the most astounding advancements of the previous century.

This information superhighway has continued to revolutionise the way and manner in which information is shared across national and international boundaries. According to Bawa (2009:7), a recent advancement in the realm of information is as follows:

Communication has been dramatically revolutionised. Communication as we know it is becoming increasingly wireless. Communication between people all over the world is now instant and available on a variety of platforms.

Whether it's on social networking sites like YouTube, , Instagram, blogs, Twitter, or through voice over protocols, the internet and its capabilities have fundamentally revolutionised and will continue to change the communication landscape forever.

Baran (2009) agreed with the preceding remark and stated that it is not an exaggeration to argue that the internet, also known as the worldwide web, has revolutionised the globe, not to mention other forms of mass media.

According to Agbo (2015), the internet, in addition to being a powerful communication medium, is at the heart of practically every media convergence that we see around us.

According to Bittner (1989), the internet uses a set of standard protocols to offer an efficient means for individuals to communicate and share data with one another. It also connects various high-speed computer networks around the world, allowing users to share resources and communicate effectively.

According to Bansal (2007), the internet is one of the most successful examples of the benefits of ongoing investment and commitment to research and development in the technical fields of information processing, retrieval, and distribution.

The internet's dominance over all previous kinds of information technology is based on its ability to reach four corners of the globe quickly and allow for the sharing of knowledge, particularly in most developed countries (Agbo 2015).

The internet's origins may be traced back to the US Department of 's use of it in 1969 as the APRANET network to preserve government communication in the event of a military strike.

According to Capron (1996:6), the US military established the APRANET network in 1970 to disperse their computers so that no single nuclear attack could destroy their processing capabilities.

The popularity of APRANET grew among scholars, particularly those at tertiary institutions and libraries, and in the 1980s, the National Science Foundation, whose NSF Net linked numerous high-speed computers, took over what had become the internet.

Because of these distinguishing characteristics, communication experts such as Capron (1996:6) have described the internet as “a loosely organised collection of networks with no centrally offered service and no online index to tell you what information is available.”

He went on to say that the big appeal of internet users is that after they have paid a signed up price, regardless of any hidden extra charges, customers appear to have unrestricted access to a vast amount of information. However, as time passed, many people desired to implement their ideas on the ARPANET.

The internet's popularity grew further, and previous studies revealed that consumers had no difficulty verbalising their demands when using the internet. Dominic (2009) proposed, to this end, that people consciously choose the medium that will best meet their wants, and that those audiences are able to recognise their rationale for making media choices.

According to Akinfeleye (2011), the internet has given birth to a plethora of communication channels where users freely transmit all types of information. One component of these communication platforms that has influenced this study is what communication academics refer to as a social network,

which includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, and others. According to Sutein (2009), social networking sites are a new type of information network and information technology that uses interactive and user-generated content to develop and maintain interpersonal relationships.

Pakhare (2011) thought that the internet's development as the new mass medium of the twenty-first century had significantly altered the mass media. Because information can be delivered quickly, cheaply, and broadly, there is equal access to the production and consumption of news.

Today's social networking sites have transformed the world into a “global village” (as Marshall McLuhan envisioned) in which what happens in one part of the world is instantly and simultaneously known throughout the world.

That is, the rapid movement of information overcomes time and distance constraints (Friedman, 2007). Social networking sites have rapidly become one of the most powerful tools of influencing society, and this effect is solely dependent on the social aspect of connection and participation.

According to Spierings and Kristof (2010), as social networking sites grow in popularity and scope, their impact on voters' political and cultural perceptions cannot be overstated, as social networking sites practically influence the way users interact, communicate, and make decisions on social, cultural, and political issues in today's world.

Thus, over the last decade or so, the potentials of social networking sites in terms of their ability to connect directly to targeted audiences have continued to garner patronage from a variety of sources,

one of which is politics. According to Farwa and Hamdar (2008), politics and her supporters have suddenly realised that the attractive bride is the social networking site.

Campaign researchers in the pre-television era revealed that the mass media had little influence on voters. In the post-television era, the mass media was recognised as an important component of politics,

and political campaigns rely heavily on both electronic and print media. The internet, on the other hand, provides a modern and rapid approach to political campaigns through its numerous social networking sites (Farha and Hamdar, 2008).

In a word, social networking sites are media that are primarily used for social interactions through the use of highly accessible and sealable communication mechanisms. Okoli (2011) highlighted that social networking sites have the ability to promote social capital in ways that could not have been anticipated previously.

These sites let people to reach out to and re-establish previous relationships, in addition to new and existing ties. Those who remember before these sites will recall losing high school friends and forgotten business companions for” there is no such thing: no friend is unreachable.

Caprini (2000) discovered that, while the majority of connections are created between people who have (or have had) a real-world relationship, many people on these sites are “friends” with people they met through social networks. Despite never meeting in the outer world, many have formed deep ties.

Because these sites allow users to search for an established group with other individuals who share similar interests (independent of geographical location), these connections have the potential to stimulate new and exciting social and civic activities. These websites enable those who would not otherwise have the opportunity or ability to send and receive information to do so.

Social networking sites have a significant advantage over other traditional media in that they are concise, rapid, and quick to imprint the desired message on the minds of users.

With the broad use of communication devices such as personal computers and phones in the mid-1990s, social networking sites (David et al, 2002) are not new in Nigeria or throughout the world.

Chatrooms, newsgroups, and instant messages (Yahoo, my space, and so on) were among the early draws for users of the worldwide web and social networks. What is new is the focus on developing forms of social media

– facebookk, instagram, and twitter – as a means of not only forming virtual communities, but also of rapidly communicating and spreading calls to action to these communities (social networking sites).

Plutzer (2002) stated that the days of messages on this sites being deemed insignificant, such as offering a way of additional marketing to targeted audiences or posting words detailing typical human activities, are long gone.

When Twitter was established and launched in late 2006, its creator declared that the objective of “tweets” was to inform your friends (followers) about what you were doing (Anderson, 2008).

However, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, social networking sites are utilised for important social and political messaging, not simply for amusement.

In terms of political activity, Shashi (2011) observed that social networks, primarily Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Instagram, Linkedin, Hunch, Myspace, and others, are getting more popular as politicians recognise it as a handy tool to communicate with their constituents.

Politicians now make pronouncements, open remarks, and even specific inquiries via social media. This is in addition to responding to inquiries from members of his constituency.

In the most recent phase of politics (particularly in Nigeria), it will require at least a second look at the political environment to realise that something has changed. A space once dominated by political brokers and media moguls has become so deregulated that it could be considered the most free in Nigeria right now (Sunstein 2001).

It is one of many instruments that help to magnify the voice of regular Nigerians, taking ordinary voices and turning them remarkable by bringing them to homes, offices, and places that most politicians and parties would never have been able to reach under different circumstances.

According to Ansolabehere and Iyonger (1995), social networking sites began as a playground for largely young and unemployed people. However, these social networking platforms have now become a battleground in what was possibly the most competitive election in Nigerian history.

The 2015 presidential election in Nigeria undoubtedly saw the extraordinary use of social media sites and their impact as political communication tools in order to change voters' preferences and choices towards parties and candidates.

In Nigeria, social media sites have drastically altered the method of political communication and campaigning, resulting in a significant shift towards the use of social networking sites in the electoral process,

as opposed to previous times when network television and newspapers dominated coverage of election / political campaigns and information.

Other countries with presidential elections that benefited from social media (SNS) include the United States, the United Kingdom, and other affluent countries. President Obama's usage and adoption of social networks was a huge success. Swaine (2010) mentioned the current British Prime Minister, David Cameron,

who put up a page that quickly drew over 19,000 admirers, as well as the former Prime Minister, Gorden Brown's brief venture on Twitter, as great examples of the increasing tide on the usage of social networking sites in politics. Positive energy (2010:1) concludes on the increasing social network potentials in political campaigns as follows:

The game is evolving quickly. Any political consultant (new media or social networking consultant) worth his or her salt must be fully aware of the social media's possibilities. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Red State, Cafemoon, Bedo, Bladeplanet,

Instagrams, Linkedin,, Dig, Reddit, Furl, Stumbleupon, and Mix are among these platforms. These media outlets will have an impact on the election by selling a bill for the products. However, they are already having a significant influence.

Despite the lack and deterioration of existing infrastructure, emerging economies such as Nigeria appear to be catching the ‘bug' of this current social media campaign craze.

According to Soriwes and Fabiyi (2010), official president Goodluck Jonathan embraced social networking sites when he established and even publicised his presidential ambition on Facebook, a popular social networking site – others followed.

According to Olumo (2014), the All Progressive Congress, the primary opposition party of the “government in power (before the presidential election in 2015), would be deemed the most advantageous of the qualities that social networking sites brought to the table.

Long before the parties merged to create the APC in February 2013, Olumo (2014) noted that there were several congregations on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to vent their rage at government operations.

In support of the preceding remark, Fashanun (2013) stated that in April 2010, there was a “enough is enough” protest to lobby for the then-vice president Goodluck Jonathan to be appointed as interim president following the death of President Umaru Yar'Adua.

A action that finally led to the “doctrine of necessity,” which led to Jonathan being named acting president by the National Assembly. “Occupy Nigeria” is one example of a political protest on a social networking platform.

These effects have been a compelling rationale for political parties to leverage the power of social networking platforms. As a result, massive campaign messages are posted on these sites. According to Ikhariale (2014), politicians have seen and felt the power of social networking sites and have seized it with zeal.

Oseni (2014) is another author that agrees with this viewpoint. The advent of social networking sites for political purposes has brought about a significant transformation in the Nigerian political process.

With 65% of voters in Nigeria between the ages of 18 and 34 being frequent social networking site users, many campaign workers used social media as a crucial weapon in enticing the youthful demographic to vote. Thus, leveraging social media to affect voter choices on these sites Gift (2013).

The increasing visibility and popularity of political parties and political leaders on social media demonstrates that political parties are “approaching and speaking to the youth and young people of Nigeria at their level.”

According to a study conducted by Brown (2013), the APC clamours and solicits votes with the catchy slogan “change” all over social networking sites, and it functions as an icon for optimism and identification of the party candidates.

The move paid off nicely for them since it stuck in the minds of both old and young people, providing them a reason to switch parties and power. This also highlighted the importance of social networking sites in political strategy, as social networking site usage has become fully awakened.

However, according to Olumo (2014), social networking sites are founded on the psychology of social behaviour rather than technology in and of itself. Because social networks are all about people and forming relationships with them,

it is possible for a platform that creates a behavioural pattern or “meme” to take root and spread swiftly online, making the social networking site a suitable tool for creating awareness for a political brand.

Any political campaign's goal can be classified into two categories. The first being to form a political relationship and nurture trust between the electorate and the candidate, and the second being for the electorate to vote for the candidate after establishing a relationship and trust (Ifukor 2010).

For this relationship to be built, the electorate must perceive a political brand's honesty, competency, trustworthiness, and vision, and all of this can be accomplished through social media because it permits transparency between the electorate and the candidate.

Messages on social networking sites are persuasive and pervasive. It is critical for all politicians to grasp and use it in order to acquire public approval and communicate with people in order to obtain their opinions and perspectives on various government initiatives.

The use of social networking sites as a campaign strategy in the 2015 presidential election was not only important, but critical, because millions of people use social networking sites on a regular basis, particularly the youth,

who previously boycotted elections in Nigeria. Social networking platforms allow politicians to communicate with large numbers of voters instantly, continuously, and at a minimal cost when compared to previous modes of campaigning (Fashahun, 2013).

Politicians can use social media to generate engaging posts in an attempt to engage followers, similar to how a brand or media organisation might. According to Soriwei and Fabiyi (2010),

this is an indicator that the Nigerian political landscape is coming to embrace social networks and their potential for reaching potential voters and the Nigerian public in general.

Prominent politicians who have used social media sites to facilitate online campaigns include Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Abubakar, Ibrahim Babangida, Olushola Saraki, Hammed Tinubu, and Babatunde Fashola.

As evidenced by the recent 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria, political parties, particularly the two dominant parties (People Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Congress (APC), used social networking sites such as online networking sites,

blogs, internet newspapers, news ads, and so on, to campaign and mobilise not only the youths' preferences on their political views and choices, but also the entire class of social networking site users to vote for them.

This resulted in a plethora of exciting news and drama online in terms of propaganda, as well as the chance for users to read, reply, interact, argue, and trashout topics online Oseni (2014).

According to Oseni (2014), social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Instagram, and online newspapers have become political platforms for people to voice their opinions on various issues concerning the candidates and sway others to their point of view through various debates, hashtags, and numerous online campaigns. This drew Nigerians together on national issues, regardless of political affiliation, ethnicity, or religion.

Not only does the social networking site provide information on political affiliations, candidates, and party manifestos, but it also provides a forum for voters across cultural barriers to relate to and interact with one another on matters concerning these politicians and parties.

This is why practically every political party in the country uses SNSs to campaign and advance its plans, message, and manifestos to followers across the country through advertising, mobilisation, and organisation (Prat and Stromberg, 2011).

The major social media platforms, including as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, were utilised to inform voters about how each party or specific candidate felt about a particular topic of national concern and how it may be addressed.

As a result, social media has become powerful enough to influence voter preferences, as many voters who had set their minds and conscience on voting for a particular party or candidate begin to change their minds based on certain trends, ideas, or specific information they obtained from these SNS about the party or candidate.

Information obtained by one voter was also not static, as the same voters would utilise a variety of online tools and buttons to broadcast the same message to their followers or other voters via a variety of SNS in order to influence their followers' preferences.

1.2 Research Questions

Emotional appeals are often used in political campaigns to boost support for a candidate or decrease support for an opponent (Brade, 2006). Campaigns frequently strive to generate positive emotions in their candidate,

such as fervour and hopefulness, in order to boost and encourage turnout and political participation, while also seeking to instill dread and worry in the opponent.

Fear and anxiety disrupt voters' behavioural patterns and cause individual voters to seek new sources of knowledge on conflicting political issues (Marcus, Pinto, and Forsth, 2001). Zeal tends to strengthen liking for the candidate and party.

A voter's information sources vary greatly, including traditional media such as TV, radio, and newspapers. However, with the introduction of social networking site forums, most voters may now obtain information, debate it, and provide input on his or her own ideas, opinions, and expectations from the party and the candidate.

Although social networking platforms aided in the recently finished elections in Nigeria, Nigerian politicians made great use of them during their campaigns. SNS was freely used by multiple parties in the governorship, presidential, and national of Assembly elections (Agbo, 2015).

The question now is whether the numerous campaigns on SNS platforms influenced voter preferences. To what extent did social networking sites affect presidential election campaigns? What factors influenced voters' choice of presidential candidate in the 2016 election?

1.3 Purpose of Research

The study's main goal was to investigate how political campaigns targeting voters via social networking sites effect voter preferences. An examination of the 2015 presidential election, with a focus on voters in Bida, Niger State.

The study specifically seeks to:

Determine the frequency with which social networking sites are used.

To determine whether social networking sites influence voting preferences.

To identify flaws in the use of social networking sites for political involvement and mobilisation in Nigeria's 2015 presidential election.

1.4 Research Suggestions

The overall goal of this research is to determine the influence of social networking sites on voter preferences in the 2015 presidential election in Bida, Niger State. This study's particular questions are:Social Network Site

How popular are social networking sites?

Do social networking sites influence voting preferences?

What are the shortcomings in the use of social networking sites for political involvement and mobilisation in Nigeria's 2015 presidential election?

1.5 Significance of the Research

This study will aid in shedding light on the impact of social networking sites on voter choices, specifically how social media influence voters' decisions on the party, candidate, and election in general based on information obtained from social networking sites.

This study will assist stakeholders in understanding how keeping a positive and healthy online profile, as well as a cordial relationship between the party and the voters, can favourably influence voters' preferences. Finally, this study will add to the body of knowledge on the impact of social networking sites on voter preferences that already exists.

1.6 Scope of the Research

The study is limited to voters in Bida, Niger State, and the focus will be primarily on the people of the Bida community, but it is assumed that in Nigeria generally, voters exhibit similar characteristics in their use of social networking sites such as Twitter,

Facebook, Instagram, blogs, and YouTube during presidential, gubernatorial, and national assembly elections. The findings could be generalised based on this assumption.Social Network Site

1.7 Limitations of the Research

The primary weakness of this study is that it is restricted to social networking site users alone. And, due to the short time frame available for doing this research, the researcher was limited to voters in Bida, Niger State who are on social networking sites for a variety of reasons:

Inadequate funding: For this type of research, it will be beneficial if the samples come from all of the Federation's states. However, due to funding constraints, the researcher is confined to Bida voters.

Time Constraint: The researcher has a restricted time frame in which to carry out this topic, which may or may not be sufficient due to the time of administration of the questionnaire and the overall research.Social Network Site

1.8 Definitions of Terms

Voters: Individuals who have reached the voting age and have the right to vote for a candidate in an election.Social Network Site

Social networking sites are online platforms that allow users to build a public profile and connect with other users on the website.

Voters Preference: This refers to the political candidate chosen by voters in Nigeria's 2015 presidential election.

Election: The formal process of selecting a public acceptable candidate for office or of approving or rejecting a political viewpoint through voting.

Campaign: An organised effort to influence a certain set of people's decision-making process. Social Network Site.

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