Virtual Revolutions


What do Obama, Hosni Mubarak and Anna Hazare share in common? Each of these figures harnessed the effectiveness of social networking sites to facilitate a change. In the US presidential elections, Obama used the Internet (read: free advertising on YouTube) to organise his supporters. And, while the protests and strikes that eventually overthrew President Hosni Mubarak were certainly not the first in Egypt, they happened to be the first of their kind in which Facebook, Twitter and YouTube played a driving role to accelerate an uprising. Closer to home, Anna Hazare’s team of supporters utilised the viral nature of social networking sites to spread awareness and to mobilise the public, finally causing the government to cave in to public demand. More recently, the crusader took to blogging during his maun vrat or silent oath so that he could continue to address his supporters. The Internet played a key role in the realisation of each of these movements and protests. Spreading information and creating awareness has become easier than ever with the whole world literally at one’s fingertips!

Going viral
E-campaigning, cyber-activism and electronic advocacy are just some of the words used to describe the act of spreading awareness via the Internet. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, websites and blogs are effective for causes like lobbying, fundraising, petitioning and spreading awareness. In fact, these very socially-influenced sites, essentially defined by the bandwagon effect displayed by their users, work wonders to spread awareness.

Word-of-mouth, the radio and television that were the only modes of sharing information are now being replaced by online platforms. The dynamics of the Internet through the use of social networking sites, websites and blogs is vital for established as well as grassroots activists for a brewing revolution. One of the main reasons is that virtual public spaces are untouched by constraints such as money, space and time.
The Internet culture is such that it acts as a wide platform for people all over the world to question, peacefully revoke and lend their support to a wide range of issues that range from radical ones like the overthrowing of a government to the smaller but important campaigns like environmental awareness. People are free to voice their opinions and support any cause via the Internet. Campaigns with an online presence and the resultant virtual communities that play a huge role in keeping them alive also enjoy the benefit of transcending geographical barriers. Using this platform, not only do people help to spread the word from just about anywhere using a computer or a mobile phone, but they can also let hundreds of other people know about it with just a click of the mouse. There are no limits when it comes to a tech-savvy campaign. The best part is that it’s absolutely free of cost!

Supplement your virtual presence with apps that can be accessed from mobile devices like smartphones and tablet PCs. Even mini games related to the cause work wonders to spread awareness and get people involved. Angry Anna, an Angry Birds-style game was launched with the purpose of supporting the surging anticorruption movement in India. A large number of people shared the game on Facebook and Twitter. The game was also the fifth most trended topic on Twitter in India on August 26, 2011!

Making it work
The success of any social media campaign is a mixture of simple, yet valuable elements. Think of who your online audience is, and then accordingly choose the right social media channels. For instance, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube offer an effective mix of channels that ensure a widespread reach to people of all ages. Add interesting facts, contests, teasers, puzzles and games to up the fun factor of your campaign. Remember that content is king! You need to communicate the cause in the best possible way. It also helps if you have a team of people who will continuously remain involved in all conversations, posts and chats. You can be sure that in no time your campaign will reach far and wide!


  • Social networks: Use social networks to reach out to your friends, friends of friends and people all over the world. Create a profile page for your cause on Facebook; tweet about it regularly on Twitter and upload related photos and information, giving you a stronger presence on the Internet
  • Blogs and websites: Create a website and blog about the cause that you wish to propagate. Invite guest bloggers to contribute too
  • Videos: Shoot and upload innovative videos on the Internet for all to see. There’s nothing like a shocking visual to garner support for your cause
  • Email blasts: Once you have a database of supporters in place, send emails regarding information and events related to the cause


This environmental awareness campaign that used Facebook. Twitter and YouTube to urge Indians to switch off their electricity for a designated hour on a particular day was well-received. Acoustic music events and human chains across India kept people well entertained during that period.

This nonviolent movement used Facebook as a platform to urge people to protest against violent conservative and right-wing activism against perceived violations of Indian culture. The Facebook campaign was very effective, but was eventually hacked by unknown attackers who renamed the Pink Chaddi group and posted racial slurs and death threats in the group’s description. Facebook disabled the account and all access to the group. However, one cannot deny the widespread reach that this campaign managed to secure using online media.

Along with the campaign’s strong focus on anti-corruption in the media, it was also heavily promoted using Facebook and Twitter. Few know that within minutes of Anna Hazare’s arrest, his video message that was posted on YouTube was a huge success with people all over India and immediately garnered over 30,ooo hits.

Volume 1 Issue 6


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