Single tweet, massive impact.
- 30th April 2012 a 9 year old school pupil starts the NeverSeconds blog as a writing project with her dad.
- Martha writes about what she gets for school lunch and takes photographs.
- This is done with the approval of the school.
- The blog also acts as a link to raising money for a school meals charity.
- Blog gets some good attention, kids from other places send pictures of their own school meals and they are posted.
- June 2012, negative press articles attract the attention of those responsible for providing the meals, the Local Council.
- Thursday 14th June Martha is told to stop taking photographs of school dinners by the Council.
- Martha publishes this on the blog in a ‘Goodbye’ message.
- The world of social media, twitter in particular, erupts.
Social Media Impact
- A very prominent school meals campaigner (Jamie Oliver) sends a message of support and encourages his 2.3 million followers to retweet it.
- Twitter gets very busy with people talking about ‘#neverseconds’.
- The story is picked up by television, radio and newspapers.
- Politicians become involved, some via twitter.
- Considerable pressure is put on the Local Council.
- Friday 15th June the Council reverses the ban and Martha is allowed to use photographs of the school meals in NeverSeconds.
- This all happens within a 24 hour timeframe.
- ……and the world of social media erupts even further.
A few numbers
- Never Seconds blog had received in excess of 4,500,000 page view by 11am on Saturday 16th June (still climbing).
- The page view counter on Saturday morning was flicking over at rate too fast to count. It was about 200 views per minute (12,000 / hour) when it had slowed down a bit.
- The ‘#neverseconds’ hash tag attracted thousands of tweets.
- The donations to the school meals charity have reached over £45,000, the fastest rate of donations they have experienced; and it’s still going on.
- There are 2 more weeks until the end of term, plenty of time for more school dinner blog posts.
- The council has received a massive amount of publicity in a very short space of time. Most of it negative, using phrases like ‘bully’. It’s going to be an interesting day back at work on Monday.
- Will this improve the quality of school meals? Particularly once social media has gone away? Who knows, but the fear of a return to this level of exposure might be a big motivation.
- What happens next for Never Seconds and Martha?
So what’s the PONT?
- Censorship is a risky activity in the world of social media. It backfired hugely for this council (even if they do claim good reasons).
- The speed and scale of social media will cause problems for most organisations. Most public services aren’t equipped for this sort of 24/7 media pressure.
- As an example of ‘citizen voice’ from within a group of generally ‘quiet’ people (primary school kids), this is a pretty loud and high impact. As part the ‘digital natives’ entering wider society and the world of work, there is an interesting future ahead for public services.
Interesting Links: Council Statement. http://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/node/38630
Infographic: http://awesome.good.is/transparency/web/1105/lunch/flat.html Do students eat like prisoners? Well worth looking at.
Also have a look at the Streisand effect. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect. An attempt to hide or remove a piece of information online has the unintended consequence of publicising the information more widely.