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How Twitter ban led to decline in profit for SMEs

In early June 2021, the Nigerian government suspension of Twitter in the country. This ban led to a decrease in customer growth and profit output…

In early June 2021, the Nigerian government suspension of Twitter in the country. This ban led to a decrease in customer growth and profit output for many small businesses that rely on microblogging site for marketing. Most of the entrepreneurs affected have looked for other means to strengthen their businesses. Daily Trust reports.

Recently, the figure calculated according to Netblocks Cost of Shutdown Tools, which uses the classic Free Digital App GDP impact technique, Nigeria has lost at least over  N150.46bn ($366.88m) since the Twitter shutdown on June 5.

According to the tool, it costs Nigeria’s economy N102.77m ($250,600) every hour to ban Twitter.

The NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool estimates the economic impact of an internet disruption, mobile data blackout or app restriction in a nation using indicators from the World Bank, International Telecommunication Union, Eurostat and U.S. Census.

For Precious Okeme, it’s another day of struggle and working hard on how to reach a larger audience. She expresses utter concern on the difficulties she has faced since the federal government placed a ban on the use of twitter. “Since the ban on twitter, I can rate my customer outreach as 3 out of 10, before it was a 7 out of 10. It’s hard reaching out to customers as people barely visit the platform anymore.”

Precious runs a catering business which involves the making and selling of cakes, desserts and small chops. Because she’s trying to promote her business and increase her output, she has meals are affordable. “When Twitter was running, I could get between 7-10 orders daily just from tweeps. Now, on a good day, I get 3-5.”

Because customers are hard to come by, Precious has resorted to other platforms that could drive her business and also improve her daily earning. “Customers are hard to come by as people are barely ever online. As a business owner, I had to make the decision to be more active on other platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp. So, I can build a more reliable service.”

Precious believes the ban to be ill-thought out and inconsiderate as many business owners like herself are facing a big gap in their daily income compared to before. “Looking at the economic situation of the country, prices of goods have skyrocketed and now with the ban, customers are not readily available. Believe me when I say it’s been a very tough time for business owners who relied on the use of the platform,” she said.

Going through the same dilemma is Favour Adim who runs a food delivery service. She told Daily Trust on Sunday that although she’s still able to gain customers through the use of other social media platforms, Twitter played a big role in building her customer outreach and productivity. “A lot of Nigerians use twitter; there was no day I wouldn’t sell out or better still have a large portion of my food bought.”

“A pack of food goes for N2,000 or N1,500 depending on what the client ordered. Before the ban, I could make up to 30 packs of food and sell them out which fetches me N45,000 to N50,000 daily. Now, if I make the same 30 packs of food, I might only sell between 10-15 packs, which has led to a very big decline in my daily earnings.”

Tobenna, who sells shoes and men’s fashion accessories, is another business owner who is facing the consequences of the twitter ban. “The customer outreach on twitter is very wide and broad, because it offers options like retweeting, which helps your business to get the promotion it deserves.”

Tobenna recalled that when twitter was still active in the country, he could boast of making more than a fair percentage of profit on a monthly basis. However, he says in recent times, he is barely able to make up to average. “I sell shoes, belts and ties amongst others. Before, you would have people reach out to you for your goods but now, it’s very hard to get customers here. Since the ban, it’s either two customers a day or five in one week which is really bad for business. Before the ban, my monthly profit can be between N250,000 and N300,000. Now, if I’m able to make N200,000 a month, I’ll be more than grateful.”

Tobenna says although other platforms can create an audience, it comes at a cost. He further explained that; “Although twitter offers paid promotions and advertisements, all it takes is for a few people to retweet your post and you can reach a wider audience. To maximise audience outreach on other platforms, they’re mostly paid for and not free.”

“It’s not as if these other platforms are so expensive, but with the state of the economy, you cannot make a conscious decision to be spending so much on advertisement,” he added.

However, Tobenna has also resorted to other platforms and more of physical interactions to boost his profit output and promote his business.

Another vendor, Ifunnanya, says building her brand has been difficult since the ban on twitter. She explains that other platforms do not give her as much audience as compared to twitter. “A lot of my customers came through twitter; the platform gave me the opportunity to express myself and build my brand. Now, the platform has been banned, it feels like a struggle having to go make a name for myself on a new platform.”

Ifunnanya, who is a tailor and uses twitter to show off her tailored designs, noted that having people react to her post and seek her service has proven a bit difficult on other platforms. She further explained that; “On other platforms, people aren’t given the liberty to interact as much as they do on twitter. What they’d mostly do is to like the post and move on. But on twitter, once a post is retweeted or liked, it is also being shared on the timeline of that person therefore creating more awareness on the product or service.”

“On twitter, I could post a dress and have up to 3 or 5 people request for it, but it isn’t the same anymore. Now, if I post an image of what I have, I barely have people interact on my post or customers who will want to buy from me.”

Even though people are still using VPNs to bypass the ban, majority of people find it stressful and have moved on from the platform to others such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, she added.

Ifunnanya expressed concern over the plight of SMEs who were using the platform to create a source of income for themselves. She said “Over time, the government will have to lift the ban because it’s ruining a lot of businesses. The prices of things are going up every day and if one cannot earn a living for himself, how is he or she supposed to survive?”

Twitter served as more than a social media tool to many Nigerian youths who relied on its ability to reach a wider audience for their businesses and also to promote and build their brand. According to reports on gs.statcounter.com, the app witnessed a decline in users which ranged from 45 per cent to 2.79 per cent between July 2020 and July 2021. In 2019, a survey by NOI polls showed that out Nigeria’s 2018 estimated population of 198 million, 39.6 million were users of the twitter platform.

Although a lot of Nigerians believe that the ban was as a result of the platform taking down a tweet that was issued by the president and also the #EndSARS uprising which happened in October 2020, the federal government maintains that it was due to the upsurge in national insecurity that the platform was banned.

The Minister for Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had issued a statement which said that; “Twitter became the platform of choice for a group that was targeting policemen, killing policemen, killing the military and promoting the interest of one ethnic group against another. For national security, we suspended the operations.”

Nonetheless, the minister had said through various mediums that the government is working on an agreement with the platform which will result in the ban being lifted soon.


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