There are currently 7771 members of the Facebook group “NoBonus4RBS“, started by Billy Bragg.
Let’s watch it fly and fly.
RATM wasn’t the first successful Facebook group-based campaign (see HSBC’s student overdraft charges, for instance). But I think it is a good model to emulate.
As I said here about song-based campaigns, negative campaigns can work (by that I mean campaigns that unite against something). News is usually “negative”, it’s very often about conflict.
For campaigners it’s also about establishing the cause in different places and among different influencers – not just a Facebook group, but a conversation point, a Twitter hashtag/phrase, news stories, blog posts… Online, everybody can be an influencer, to an extent.
I think the group does act as a hub for the rest of the campaign, a backchannel of sorts. Why? Facebook is dominant, it relies on existing friend/social connections, joining a group is relatively frictionless and each action in the group (joining, posting something) results in a news item for others to see.
I’ve joined the group.
Billy Bragg is threatening to withhold his tax on 31st January in protest. Something’s got to give…
UPDATE: Oh my, there is a lot of traditional media coverage of Bragg. I wonder if he’s peaked early and in doing so bypassed the groundswell that could have happened on social media. We’ll see…
I have two predictions for 2010.
Prediction one is that we will see lots of online campaigns around songs, inspired by Rage Against The Machines’s chart success in 2009. It will be easy to be dismissive and call these “copycat” campaigns but the idea of mobilising large groups of fans via social media is a seductive one. And I think it’s more interesting than just letting the established industry and media dictate the sum total of who’ll be successful.
The first example I’ve seen is a Facebook group called “Cael band Cymraeg fewn ir TOP 40/Get a Welsh Language act into the UK TOP40” for a band called Masters In France.
Taking some cues from the RATM campaign, I think this is certainly achievable if the tune can be played on radio and the campaign can be blogged about and covered in some mainstream media. It would help if it were a band with some kind of following and a core band of independent, active supporters to act as campaigners in their own spaces, as was the case with RATM. As you’ll recall, the band got involved as a result of a “grassroots” campaign, which was well organised and had its own Twitter hashtag #ratm4xmas too. It wasn’t merely a Facebook group, but a campaign which existed in other places too.
See also: 1000 True Fans and the case against.
While comparing RATM to two other online campaigns, Simon Dickson identifies these factors:
- they were negative campaigns – in the sense that they were based around someone or something that people didn’t like: religious advertising, Simon Cowell, Kerry McCarthy; and
- there was a specific, measurable outcome: the sight of a bus with a poster on it, the announcement of the Christmas chart, the result from Bristol East on election night. If enough of you support me, we will get ‘X’ – and we will know if/when we have won.
Despite being “food for thought” rather than an exhaustive study, it’s worth reading Dickson’s whole post, especially if you’re interested in activism in the broader and sometimes non-frivolous aspect of the term.
So what’s my second prediction?
As we become more networked, aware of trends in society, more inclined to pass comment on it all and more capable of publishing those comments, I predict… more predictions and armchair futurology than any previous year.