Nigeria has witnessed an exponential growth in internet and social media use. From a modest 200,000 users in 2000, by 2015 around 30 per cent of the population is online, increasingly on smart phones. The use of social media in elections initially became noticeable in the preparations for the 2011 Nigerian elections, and now receives widespread media attention for its role in informing, engaging and empowering citizens in Nigeria and across Africa.

Social media activity presents a novel way to research and understand attitudes, trends and media consumption. There is a growing number of academic and commercial efforts to make sense of social media data sets for research or (more typically) advertising and marketing purposes.

This project examines the potential of social media for monitoring and communication purposes, using the 2015 Nigerian elections as a case study. The purpose of the research is to develop an understanding of the effectiveness of social media use for communication and monitoring during the 2015 Nigerian election, and draw out lessons and possibilities for the use of social media data in other elections and beyond.

This paper has been prepared for the UK Department for International Development.

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