December 20th 2014

Power of Social Media

I think we all can agree that Social Media is very useful for real time information. We know that Seal Team 6 was tweeted about as they were going to take out Bin Laden. We also know that mainstream media constantly monitors social feeds to ensure they’re not missing any breaking news. However in the last week I have witnessed the true power of social media.

Social media to help save a local wood

The local paper had a front-page headline saying a local ancient wood was going to be flattened and made into a quarry. This was on Thursday night last week around 5pm.

While I was ranting and raging about this in the car coming back from the local superstore, I thought this needed to be raised with local people. I popped onto Facebook and noticed someone had already setup a Facebook page. I thought fair play, let’s see how this plays out. I was following the local MP on my business twitter account and thought I needed to find out what he could do to stop this, again over twitter. Chris Pincher replied on what needed to be done. (And deserves a mention as he did object heavily and was very supportive.)

I decided to the share this with the Save Hopwas Wood Facebook. At this point an hour had passed and it had gone from 50 to like 500 people. I thought to myself this is going to pick up some pace, but it needs a bit of clout and support by local dignitaries. I contacted an admin person who wanted to remain anonymous. I said I would run the twitter side of things for him, if he wanted, with which he had no issues.

Ramping up the campaign

Using my experience on Twitter I knew we needed influential organisations, and people to help amplify the messages.

We also needed the owners of the wood to become involved, engaged and reacting to what we were doing. I quickly did some research on who owns them, and it turned out to be La Farge Tarmac and the Ministry of Defense.

In the time I set up the twitter account, another 500 people had liked the page. So both channels were up and running, what we didn’t expect was the level of support online using hashtag #savehopwaswoods.

We sent tweets challenging La Farge Tarmac, however they reacted how a big business should. i.e. don’t respond, but  place information on their website, (good PR) however it wasn’t enough to stop the snowball effect.

I then asked the local MP to get all his councillors to follow and RT our hashtag. This started to gain momentum. We also asked people to like the Facebook page. Within the first night there were around 3000 likes on Facebook..   I also contacted the local Major who was fully behind the campaign.

The local MP and some independent people, setup some petitions online. Once setup the interest increased massively. By the end of the weekend Facebook had over 10,000 likes and was growing rapidly. There were over 8000 online petition signatories (over 3 different web sites). The BBC had a piece on their website and it was also mentioned nationwide on Breakfast News as well.

The County Council then asked for us to fill in a survey on their website. As soon as the link was handed out, I think the council realised this proposal, of turning an ancient wood into a quarry, was not going to go down at all well in Tamworth.

The final result

On the following Tuesday Facebook hit 12000 likes which is around 16% of Tamworth’s population, and they had shown their support in under a week. On Wednesday afternoon 1 week later La Farge had dropped it’s application to destroy these woods.

This is just a great example of a community using modern tools to help stop large businesses doing exactly what they want regardless. People not just from Tamworth wanted to help. Both social media accounts are ready for the next battle.

If you want to know more about this visit and a big congratulations to Sean Cowley for setting up the campaign on Social Media.

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