On Saturday 23rd of March a tweet went out with a time and location; moments later Fortnum and Mason was overwhelmed by groups singing and individuals reading poetry. Not your ordinary protest to say the least but then there’s nothing ordinary about UK Uncut, the group that staged the sit-in whilst pioneering community management through social media.
The sit-in was an exhibition of social media community management in full force. It’s fast, it’s effective and most of all it’s simple. Masses moved after reading fewer than 140 precisely chosen words. Those who are part of the movement are linked not just by Twitter but also by Facebook, by a website and by numerous blogs too. It is an all-encompassing use of social media that demonstrates how powerful the medium can be.
What’s most remarkable about the UK Uncut movement is its inception. On the 27th October 2010 George Osborne delivered his Budget announcing the deepest public service cuts since the 20s. Later that day 70 people shut down Vodafone’s flagship Oxford Street store in protest of the Arcadia group’s purported tax dodging. The control room for this action was Twitter, and specifically the #ukuncut ‘hashtag’. A revolution was born, interest grew and word spread until it started to ‘trend’, something that requires thousands of people to be talking about it. UK Uncut sent Twitter into a frenzy. Within five months UK Uncut’s Twitter account has swollen to 25,000 followers, which is the same number as Elvis fans and it amounts to a small army. The amazing thing is that this task force of peaceful protesters has been born, raised and deployed using social media only – there is nothing more too it.
Sunday’s events represent a triumph of social media in community management and shows how effective it can be in conveying a message and motivating people. With negligible resources UK Uncut has, to put it mildly, caused a stir. The publicity it’s generated rivals any advertising campaign and it’s done so for the price of a smart phone and an Internet connection. Communicating on a large scale has never been easier so your message and the language you use is more important than ever. It’s no coincidence that UK Uncut’s founder Thom Costello is an Oxford English Graduate. His use of language is expert and it makes his rhetoric irresistible. UK Uncut’s argument is far from watertight but its communication is well-crafted and convincing and people are enthralled by it. This targeted language coupled with the thorough use of social media has lead to impressive results; Social media is a powerful force that has transformed the way people communicate and there’s no going back.