1.1       Background to the Study

Political marketing is a strategy used to target voters. During political events, politicians, engage in different political markets ideals in order to win the supports of the electorates as well as learn about how the electirates behave politically. According to Darren and Lees, (2016), political marketing is "the strategic use of political communication tools to influence the behaviour of relevant stakeholders, maximize electoral support, and achieve the objectives of the political actor. According to Binshad and Mohamed (2019), door-to-door campaigns, public gatherings, and even wall campaigns are the first political election marketing events. All of these activities are normal, thus reforming election marketing is necessary. By enabling access to knowledge and lowering the barrier to public participation in sharing, the internet has demonstrated its potential for democratization.

Political communication in recent times of technological revolution has attracted many stakeholders in political environment. One of the tools that have impacted on political communication around the globe is social media. Social media usage for political communication is significant for presentation of candidates and political parties.  Mohammed and Ogwueche (2021) asserted that political marketing in the 21st century emphasizes the value of social media in projecting good political image of politicians and their political parties. Politicians and other interested party members and supporters think that social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, among others, can affect how people participate in politics. According to Alyyya (2022), social media techniques are now used in political communication efforts to win elections, boost voter interactions, market identities and ideologies, and create positive public perceptions. According to Binshad and Mohammad (2019), social media have taken on the role of a crucial platform for public discourse as well as marketing of parties and candidates. Regardless of size, every political party that offers political values has realized the benefits of using social media to connect with electorates. Prior to this times, political marketing operations had been largely conventional because of the nature of Nigerians adoptability to politics.

Given that the use of social networking sites like Facebook and microblogging services like Twitter is thought to have the potential to positively influence political participation through political marketing, hence, the significance of social media has recently been highlighted in relation to politics in particular. As a result of the development of social media for communication, the world has undergone a significant transformation (Wang, Chen & Liang, 2011). By decentralizing political marketing communication, it has eliminated obstacles to communication so that practically everyone may speak up and take part in many social issues that impact them, (Amedie, 2015). It significantly influences how electorates see the political parties and their candidates in the build-up to general election, (Siddiqui and Singh, 2016). According to Okolo, Ugonna, Nebo and Obikeze (2017), social media are new information network and information technology using a form of communication utilizing interactive and user-produced contents, and interpersonal relationships are created and maintained.

Social media technologies are encouraging political engagement and participation among voters and candidates. Many academics have recognized the interaction between the electorates and the politicians as the medium of communication. Political participation is recognized to be greatly encouraged by social media because the electorate is significantly wooed by the posts, comments and shares of these politicians. According to Mohammed and Ogwueche (2021), new media technologies have been crucial to Nigeria's political environment during the past 20 years, both for political party campaigns and the electorates who choose candidates who have marketed themselves through political marketing. According to Okolo et al. (2017), social media platforms are crucial instruments used in political communication campaigns to ensure victory, promote engagement between political parties and candidates and voters, and frequently to present a favourable image of the politicians. Organizations can now access new systems, (Okolo and Ehikwe, 2015).

Social media has recently grown to be an essential component of communication and public conversation in modern political culture. The rapid development of social media has resulted in significant changes in how people identify groups of people with shared interests, the type of information, the news sources that are available, or the ability to request and share ideas (Stieglitz and Dang-Xuan, 2012). Given that the use of social networking sites like Facebook and microblogging services like Twitter is thought to have the potential to favorably influence political involvement, the dominance of social media in politics has recently received considerable attention (Stieglitz and Dang-Xuan, 2012). Recent technology improvements have made social media an essential tool for communication and networking on a global scale (Ghoshal, 2018).

Political parties are now using social media as a crucial instrument for political marketing as they realize its potential as the simplest, fastest, and cheapest means to contact their target voters. According to Mohammed and Ogwuche (2021), political parties no longer need to rely solely on traditional political communication channels including town hall meetings, wall campaigns, mainstream media, and public relations to get support and connect with voters during electioneering seasons (Ghoshal, 2018). According to Gudmundsson, Hjálmarsdóttir, and Kristjánsdóttir (2019), the significance of marketing strategies in political campaigns has grown as the complexity of expressing politics in a highly fragmented media landscape has increased. The scholars further conclude that with different media logics interacting in a hybrid media system, political marketing methods through social media have drawn considerable attention and threatened democratic processes in some instances.

Internet use and the popularity of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp, among others, provide  new channels for political advertising efforts. According to Lilleker (2016), using fundamental principles of political marketing is increasingly necessary to win elections without resorting to violence. By bridging the communication and relationship gap between political parties and other stakeholders and enabling debate, feedback, and involvement in a political system, the use of social media in political marketing improves nation-building. However, when there is political tension in the polity, this platform can trend negative political comments and utterances, which may have severe and detrimental effects (Ajayi and Adesote, 2015). This is because these negative comments may not only remain on these social networking sites but may also continue in the political environment.

In contrast to the traditional marketing of goods and services in commercial organizations, political marketing places a focus on the values, ideas, and candidates of a political party (Baines, 2012). The use of social media for political campaigns and elections has become a contentious political issue in Nigeria, as it is in the majority of other nations today, sparking numerous discussions about political communication. Therefore, using strategic marketing tactics in politics could greatly give campaigns and procedures a competitive advantage and a systematic framework.

1.2       Statement of Problem

The majority of democratic countries throughout the world, including Nigeria, have included social media into their political cultures as a specialised medium for contemporary human communication. According to Brinshad and Mohammed (2019), social media use among politicians and the electorate is one of the most prevalent forms of communication. Politicians all over the world heavily and strategically utilise social media to further their specific objectives, including projecting favourable images for winning re-election, and maintaining relationships with their constituents. Social media is helpful in facilitating information interchange between political candidates and the electorate; it informs voters and shapes their political preferences, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviour towards certain political candidates.

In Nigeria, however, the daily use of social media by politicians and the way that user-citizens engage with political social network sites and pages have gotten less attention. Political gladiators of all stripes, ideologies, intents, and goals use the social media in the belief that political communication through them might exert pressure or influence on people's perceptions and behaviours. In essence, politicians expect the communication relationship to be positive and beneficial to them.However, there is a critical need for more accurate political information, education, and enlightenment, delivered through suitable and efficient social media platforms, managed by competent specialists adhering strongly to their professional ethics and codes of conduct, and rich in expertise. The messages in political advertisements should be based on the truth and complete facts to empower voters to make informed decisions that will assist in electing the best candidates for various offices. In light of the aforementioned, the researcher aim to ascertain the influence of social media on political marketing in Delta State.

1.3       Objectives of the Study

            The main aim of the study is the examine the influence of social media on political marketing in Delta State while the specific objectives are to;

  1. examine the pattern of social media usage for political marketing in Delta State
  2. determine the influence of social media on political marketing in Delta State
  3. discovered challenges of social media usage for political marketing  in Delta State

1.4       Research Questions

  1. What is the pattern of social media usage for political marketing in Delta State?
  2. What is the influence of social media on political marketing in Delta State?
  3. What are the challenges of social media usage for political marketing in Delta State?

1.5       Significance of the Study

            This research is important because it centers on issues in mass communication. Social media has been an important concept for discussion in public places. Therefore, the findings of this research will open up further research ideas for other scholars. Politicians and voters will gain a lot of insight on the contributions, pattern and challenges of using social media for political marketing in Nigeria.

1.6       Scope of the Study

            The conceptual scope of the study is on the influence of social media on political marketing. Geographic scope of the study is limited to students of Delta State University, Abraka. Students in Delta State University are the primary target for this study. These people are those from 18 years and above. Periodically, the study is restricted to 2 years, from 2021 to 2023 which cover pre-election period, election period and post election period.

1.8       Definition of Terms

Influence: Influence is regarded as any factor that is capable of affecting one's behavior. The outcome is determined by some variables such as yielding to one's control and behaving in accordance with that influence.

Social Media: Social media is a type of social interactive pattern in which users connect with one another in order to share information for social gain. Social media are ways for people to connect with one another by creating, sharing, and exchanging information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.

Political Marketing: Contextually, Political marketing is the process by which political candidates, events and ideas directed at the voters and gain their support understanding the voters’ behavior

Election: This is a democratic process where an independent body or commission conducts credible voting system for the electorate to select their leaders.

Electorate:  Electorate are members of the public that are eligible to vote during election in the selection of leaders.