We’re here! Now what?

Caught  on CCTV
Photo credit at bottom of post

I swear, this isn’t going to become a politics blog. But feel free to consider this a follow up to my second-last post. As was the hot rumour on December 30, the Prime Minister asked the Governor General to prorogue Parliament and the Queen’s representative said okilly doke (or something to that effect). Bam. Proroguation sweeps the nation.

This clearly struck a chord with Canadians who feel as though their elected representatives should, you know, represent them. Columnists and editorialists were almost unanimously against the move and, as is the hip thing to do in this day and age, a Facebook Group was started to protest prorogation.

And it grew, and grew, and grew…

Then a crazy thing happened. People joined the group. A lot of people. As of the time of writing this post, the group was closing in on 25k (though size on Facebook is relative, Nickelback’s Fan Page, for example, has 1.3 million members including an alarming number of my ‘friends.’ But still, 25k for a grassroots group is pretty impressive).

That’s the equivalent of every person in Prince Edward County joining the group in just a matter of days (go Wikipedia skillz!). Even the mainstream press has picked up on the story, which is generally considered a sign of a successful social media campaign, no?

So now what?

While the growth of this group in such a short time is impressive, I’m kind of left wondering what’s next. As my brilliant wife noted on Twitter, maybe the fact that the group itself is a story makes this a success. In the biz that’d be considered earned media, the ultimate goal of any outreach strategy.

But, as I’ve blogged before, how much traction does a protest have when it’s so easy to be part of it? Is joining the group the end of the action taken by those 25k? What percentage of them will actually take the next step and write to their MP or attend a rally?

A big group is a step, not a goal

Getting 25, 000 people to join a group is a great first step but it shouldn’t be considered a goal in and of itself. MediaStyle‘s Ian Capstick suggested this morning in response to my question about the group that perhaps joining the group is an easy first step that gets people moving into more concrete action. And as a social media guy, let me be clear: I really hope that it is.

This has the potential to be a great case study in grassroots mobilization. There’s already talk of rallies to build on the group’s momentum (though curiously enough there’s no information in the Events section of the group).

But  political action doesn’t begin and end with joining a Facebook group.

UPDATE: There appears to be a companion group for the actual rallies (h/t to @UnionSt)

Creative Commons License photo credit: Manic*

13 thoughts on “We’re here! Now what?

  1. Figured I just consolidate my twitter replies here. The 25k provide an opportunity to facilitate further action, make it easy to do more & share info about what’s already been done.

    When I was in the tool design business I used to talk about requiring a “negative activation energy” (activation energy is the energy required to get a chemical reaction started) to get people interested in using something new that was supposed to make things better for them. I would hazard to say that with todays tools, systems, and norms the infrastructure is in place to make this happen with well executed SM campaigns.

    So far the only actions I’ve seen from the FB group is more (& more) people joining it. So right now I’d say it’s an unexploited opportunity, beyond the news buzz (which while positive likely isn’t going to change much).

    Reminded again of “With knowing comes caring, and with caring comes hope” (Dr. Sylvia Earle). Perhaps if the current Gov knows how much & how many Canadians care then there’s a (faint) hope that they’d change the way they operate.

    I hope so.

  2. Well, just over a year ago when Harper prorogued, you’d be lucky to find a handful of people who even knew what that MEANT. And now you have over 34, 000 of them PROTESTING it? If nothing else, I’m happy to see that more Canadians are paying attention. Will it translate to any concrete action? Maybe not. But it’s a start.

  3. Good questions . . . but I don’t agree that the “ultimate goal of any outreach strategy” is earned media. There is less likelihood of action being driven out of a media story than there is from a self-organizing group coming together in opposition. The first is passive; the second active. The goal of an outreach strategy is to encourage action, which you are much closer to in a self-organized Facebook group . . . although, as you rightly point out, not a guarantee of such action. We’ll see.

  4. Yea, I didn’t word the bit about earned media very well; I don’t actually think that it’s the ultimate goal. A common and worthy goal, yes, but not ultimate. I blame the early hour at which the post was written. And your points are well taken.

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