Using Social Marketing To Curtail Boko Haram.


General Overview


On April 14th 2014, more than 200 students from a school in Borno state, Nigeria were abducted by Boko Haram Islamist Militants. As of May 20th 2014, some of these girls are still with these militants, there has been a lot of social media fervor about the abductions with the #bringbackourgirls hashtag trending on social media sites, a lot of misinformation about the abduction and generally lack of clarity about the happenings. This post is to analyze this event and bring about a more preventative approach to forestall future happenings.


What is Social Marketing?


Social marketing, for the purpose of this post is about getting a population or a target audience to choose to implement a change in their behavior of their own volition. It borrows heavily from marketing. Interestingly, promotion (which is the blitz /shiny glitz that is seen) is just one aspect of marketing. Marketing involves understanding the needs of the community (end user needs), understanding why your idea /product is the best fit(positioning), choosing how to spread your message (channel selection) and of course, evaluating if what you posited or implemented actually worked (evaluation). Social marketing implements all four with the purpose of creating a behavioral change.


Social Marketing:


Intervention to curtail the growth of terrorist groups in the country by creating awareness, information promotion education and safety promotion. 


Behavioral changes expected:

  • Awareness of the dangers of Boko Haram to community health.
  • Collaboration with the government to arrest Boko Haram members.
  • Refusal to support, join, implement strategies of destruction of members of the community and citizens of the nation.
  • Reporting Boko Haram or suspected Boko Haram members.

These are behavioral changes because rather than cover up individuals who are bent on destruction, it pushes the community to uncover these individuals and curtail their growth. 


End Users:

Citizens of Northern states in Nigeria, Citizens of Nigeria and Border countries. These citizens want to feel safe. Boko Haram has shown a lack of respect for lives and this is their Achilles heel because it shows their agenda to be fear based rather than religious or against westernization based. Boko Haram is not about a philosophy.



An intervention to create awareness, educate and promote safety is the best strategy because it ensures that individuals are informed, and they know how to relay information about suspected terrorists.


Channel Selection:

The channels that will be used are social media, real media and influencers.

Social media will be used because a lot of younger members of society use social media tools; moreover, social media tools are used by Boko Haram members to spread fear. Additionally, social media is a very adaptive tool that can be used to spread any message using different formats. Social media tools are twitter, facebook, tumblr, google, youtube, instagram and the list goes on.


Real Time Media: This is not really as adaptable as social media. But, its reach is generally older members of society. Real time media includes community newspapers, gazettes etc


Influencers: This involves collaboration with religious leaders and community influencers to spread information and educate.


Message selection:


  • To choose the right message/image and be culturally sensitive, there has to be collaboration between community leaders and those who will be working on creation and placement of the message. Community members have to be involved in message selection.
  • The message and image should impart the importance of curtailing and controlling the growth of this terrorist group for the purpose of community mental/emotional and physical health.
  • The message should also include an educational component because when people are informed, they often choose to make the right decision. This information should clearly state that Boko Haram is not for any religious group or any religious person or even about westernization but rather is a group of people who enjoy spreading fear and everyone is a target.
  • Ensure that the message contains an easily remembered number for those that might have information about Boko Haram and (or) suspected Boko Haram members.





Create an access map to find out where young and older people gather and place informational products in those places and this could also be  virtual places as well. Informational products could be educational brochures created from information received from community leaders and community influencers.Informational products could also come in other forms. Virtual space could be websites or online meeting places that attracts younger citizens.


Beyond using technology, other media tools should be used like: radio, tv , community newspaper. Informational products should be placed in community centers like market places, hospitals, clinics, religious organizations etc.




There are different ways to evaluate and they include:

  • charting how often messages are received before an attack occurs.
  • surveying to see how much information is known about Boko Haram and their message from the lay individual in the community.
  • Running focus groups
  • Comparing to see if there has been a reduction in attacks and abductions in the Northern area since the implementation of this intervention.


Special Note On #Bringbackourgirls campaign.

The #Bringbackourgirls campaign has been quite effective in creating awareness about the abduction of these young girls internationally. A lot of global celebrities have been seen with their placards and the words #bringbackourgirls. #Bringbackourgirls has created awareness and ensured that this atrocity remains in the fickle minds of the global populace. But Nigeria’s governmental media strategists/information center have to ensure that Nigerian citizens have information that is relevant, clear and on time. It is important that the federal government of Nigeria be seen to be physically doing something to get these girls home. This is not the time to shift responsibilities to the state government but rather a time to collaborate if need be. Some have argued that Boko Haram’s reason for operation is to destabilize the Nigerian government but if the Nigerian government does not take some strong actions. Boko Haram might win.







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