Social Media/Digital channels are quickly becoming one of the best tools for campaigning because of the viral nature of how people share content which engages them on an emotional level. It is exactly this difference between “conversation” and “broadcasting” that excites people and gives them a platform when they feel compelled to fight for a cause.
Rarely, however, outside of the larger charities and political campaigns, do we see a great example of this locally. It is even more rare to see a local campaign, that rivals any national campaign in terms of speed, virality and support, that is not created by a large organisation, supported by a big budget, a big comms team and a creative agency supporting them.
How rare is it to find a successful change campaign created by just one person… in another time zone?
Last week, social media in Northern Ireland erupted in support for one of our tourist attractions that held many childhood memories for people. It came about when news emerged that Ards Borough Council said it had been searching for a private investor for Exploris Aquarium in a bid to reduce the £600,000 financial cost of the centre.
The recent Twitter campaign, which saw people from all corners of the globe posting pictures of themselves and their pets holding “Save Exploris” signs, was the brainchild of Sean Clifford (@thejiffster), originally from Ardglass in Northern Ireland, now residing in Honduras!
Tweeting with the hashtag #ExplorisGoneGlobal social media users also encouraged people to sign online petitions, which have garnered thousands of signatures. A Facebook page was then created with almost 22,000 Likes at the time of writing.
Mere days after the campaign began, Ards councillors voted to delay the closure by two months in the hopes of securing funding from government departments.
As with anything online, effective measurement can be tricky, and it’s uncertain how much of an impact the campaign had on the Council’s decision or indeed, whether the public show of support is enough to battle the bottom-line figures into submission.
What is certain, is that the campaign gave the people a forum to come out in support of something good in the country – a place for everyone, regardless of colour or creed, a place for children and adults to learn and enjoy together.
And that is always a good thing in my book.