Twestival and #Blackout – mobile social movements

We’re living in the age of the mobile social movement – and I don’t just mean you can get it on your mobile phone.

It’s mobile because you can do a lot of good without being deeply committed to something. That doesn’t mean you’re not sincere, but it means it’s never been more convenient to act on your best impulses.


Twestival shows how short the distance is between idea and execution.

My Twestival Nametag In September 2008, Amanda Rose had an idea for a tweetup that collected donations for CharityWater. In February this year, the idea went worldwide.

Because the infrastructure was already setup ( used WordPress MU so each city could easily manage its own page), getting your own city was relatively simple. The community was already there, and as you might know, Twitterers tend to be better educated, wealthier and better networked than most people, so venues and other details were easy to organise.

In Auckland we had 28 attendees (not bad considering the short lead time of about 2.5 weeks!) and raised $200 which went towards the worldwide total of US$250,000. See the TVNZ coverage here , and our background post here .

Not only did we raise money, we also got to meet fascinating people, like the Dutch student who’d been in Auckland only two days, and was leaving the next day, but wanted to donate and meet some other Twitter people.


If you’re in New Zealand, chances are you’ll have heard of the "online community" causing the government to defer the proposed amendment to the Copyright Act for a month.

Interestingly, opposition had been going some months, with the development of the Creative Freedom Foundation website, but it wasn’t until February 16th that the big idea took hold, and became the #blackout protest .

It’s another example of how people will rally to a cause they believe in, as long as you can communicate it in a simple way that:

  • shows how it affects them
  • incites curiosity
  • takes less than 3 seconds
  • is spreadable
  • translates to multiple platforms (eg the blacked out profile pictures, the banner ads, and even the placards used in real-life protests)

Notice that both of these "mobile social movements" had one thing in common – there was no big corporation involved. While there were corporate sponsors for individual Twestivals, they were in a service role, rather than telling people what to do.

If a business wants to insert itself into a mobile social movement – or start its own – it will face scepticism if its goal is anything but helping people do what they want to do.

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