Are we seeing the first 'twitter' revolution – a campaign reader

For the last month my trending topics have included terms which relate to the events in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and now Libya, but can the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt be described as the first ‘twitter revolution’?  Here are some useful articles about the role of social media in the recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.
Please do suggest additional articles that help to understand the role of social media.
The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont in The truth about Twitter, Facebook and the uprisings in the Arab world attempt a fairly objective look at the use of social media in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and the contribution they may have made to recent events.
Malcolm Gladwell has taken some flack recently for suggesting that the revolution won’t be tweeted, an argument he picks up again for Egypt in his regular column in the New Yorker. Perhaps more interesting Wired UK writes David Kravets also argues it’s too early to call this a ‘twitter revolution’.
Charlie Beckett, Director of POLIS at LSE agrees that social media didn’t cause the revolution, but suggests that it ‘is now a useful indicator, if not predictor, of political change’. He has makes some important observations about the role of citizen media in telling the story of recent weeks.
Jay Rosen pokes fun at The “Twitter Can’t Topple Dictators” Article and suggests that they avoid looking at the bigger question about ‘how does the Internet affect the balance of forces in a contest between the state and people fed up with the state’. Over at Huffington Post, Jose Antonio Vargas has long article entitled Egypt, The Age Of Disruption And The ‘Me’ In Media which explores some of these questions.
Finally Oxfam’s Duncan Green had a go at looking at the broader drivers of change at work, including the importance of technology on his Oxfam blog and then followed it up with reflections on some of the comments.
h/t @timsowula for some useful links.

Campaign tweeters you should be following

A very lazy Sunday evening post, but here is my list of some of the people I think you should be following on twitter for interesting thinking about campaigning.
It’s the list of campaigning people I look out for in my twitter. I’ve tried to avoid the corporate feeds from organisations but I’m sure I’ve missed people.
Additional contributions encouraged.
Monday 14 Feb – UPDATED with some new additions.
@forumforchange – Forum for Change from NCVO – consistantly useful sources of information, UK NGO sector should always grateful for what Forum For Change is doing.
@fairsay – Duane Raymond, Fairsay – was talking about e-campaigning before Malcolm Gladwell had heard about Twitter!
@j_chatterton – Jonny Chatterton, 38degrees – the latest from 38 degrees and lots of other interesting things aside.
@mcgregormt – Matthew McGregor, Blue State Digital – works for Obama’s ‘favourite internet strategy firm’ but used to work for War on Want so get’s UK campaigning.
@SMKcampaigners – Campaign Central from Sheila McKechnie Foundation – supporting the next generation of campaigners.
@brandzel – Ben Brandzel – appears to have been involved in almost every big e-campaign you’ve heard about, taught me the concept of ‘crisis-tiunity’ which I’ve bored colleagues with every since!
@HUdigital – Hands Up Digital – great little campaigns consultancy run by former colleague of mine (@benclowney).
@paulhilder – Paul Hilder – involved with Avaaz, author of Contentious citizens: Civil society’s role in campaigning for social change.
@kelcurrah – Kel Currah – should have more followers, heads up What World Strategies, knows lots about global campaigning.
@PolDyn – Political Dynamite – I’m biased, but constantly challenging blog about what’s working in campaigning.
@GlenTarman – Glen Tarman, BOND – consistently useful source of info about campaigning and the UK development scene.
@BenNiblett – Ben Niblett, Tearfund – my boss but also tweeter of interesting things, especially on climate change.
@stevenbuckley – Steven Buckley, Christian Aid – lots of useful tweets about comms trends, my bridge into the scary world of corporate comms and fundraising!
@timsowula – Tim Sowula – fellow collaborator in the short lived ‘Young Campaigners Forum’. Thinks alot about comms and campaigning.
Suggested by @BenNiblett
– Chris Johnson – author of the brilliant blog
Suggested by @timsowula
@aaronjohnpeters Aaron John Peters – blogs at
@caspertk – Casper ter Kuile, Co-founder of the UKYCC – blogs at
@KenRoth– Ken Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
@AdamRamsay – Adam Ramsay
– blogs at
Suggested by @haroldforbes
@billmckibben – Bill McKibben, founder of

Update 2
@nicola_gilbert – Nicola Gilbert, Campaign Effectiveness Officer at NCVO
@hackofalltrades – Liam Barrington-Bush
@emmataggart – Emma Taggart

Twitter – here to stay

So, after a very long summer break I’m back…one of my first blogs back in February was about twitter I asked if it was going to catch on.
I was cautiously optimistic, I wanted it to work, but was wary that it could go the way of other social media phenomena. Well what a 6 months Twitter has had. The numbers of people using it are still growing, and it’s not hyperbole to say that it’s changed the face of campaigning.
Changing Policy – Lots has been written about the role of twitter in mobilising people, but last week was perhaps a high-water mark for twitter.
On Monday, we had the Trafigura story exploding on twitter, within hours of the Guardian publishing a cryptic article on its website about an injunction we saw people starting to tweet what the parliamentary question was.  Before long the story was leading on the mainstream news, and a scandal that was only going to get noticed by a few who had been following the  story was everywhere, a very public PR disaster! Liam from has a good post on this.
Then on Friday, we saw twitter mobilise a record 22,000 people to complain to the Press Complaints Commission about an article in the Daily Mail on the death of Stephen Gatley.
Before that we had the organisation BeThatChange organising a day of action which saw thousands of people trying to get Gordon Brown to go to COP, the response was that Ed Miliband put up a poll on his Ed’s Pledge website asking people to vote for their political priority ahead of Copenhagen.  A few days later, and Gordon Brown announced he was going to COP.
No doubt there are many other examples that one could point to over the last few months, ILovetheNHS for example. Two thoughts about what these examples have in common, an immediacy within moments someone has picked up on the story, and in hours they’ve reached a tipping point that forces the target to respond. Secondly, few of these campaigns have been initiated by organisations but instead twitter has put the ability to mobilise in the hands of people with lots of followers on twitter.  Some more agile movements may have been able to pick up on them (for example 38degrees around Trafigura), but twitter is helping to put mobilising power to those with virtual networks.
Engaging with policy makers – Today, two people I know got responses from @EdMilibandMP to their questions/comment and I’ve seen an interesting discussion with @SadiqKhan about an announcement he was making on parking. So what? Well unlike most communications with ministers/MPs, the chances are those policy makers have actually responded themselves, Twitter has cut out the comms department, the secretary and allowed people to share what they’re thinking directly with those holding the red box. No doubt this phenomena will come to an end when the number of followers becomes overwhelming, but for the time its a great opportunity to take advantage of.
Two others useful things;
– Back in the summer the people who matter in Whitehall issued these guidelines about how government department should be using twitter, while they were ridiculed for being too long, they’re the best set of guidelines I’ve found if you need to persuade senior management in your organisation to understand and use twitter.
– I’ve been experimenting with as a way of getting supporters to use twitter to show their support for a campaign, initial experience is good.

Will twitter change campaigning?

It can only be a matter of time before the verb ‘to twet’ ends up in the Oxford English Dictionary.  Last month the BBC reported that the micro-blogging phenomenon had for the first time made it into the top 20 most used social networking sites and that Twitter grew ten fold in 2008.
So should campaigners care? Rachel at The Charity Place has a whole number of excellent posts about Twitter and how to get started, wtwitterhile Econsultancy asks if more charities should be using Twitter.
Enough has already been written about twitter to generate a lifetime of tweets, so I just want to summarise a few ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ for campaigners.
For Twitter
Its free
Its instant – within moments you can be updating your followers about a new action they can take, a campaign victory to report. No longer do you need to build and send an e-mail or wait until the next campaign publications to tell your supporters.
So what if you fail – working with social media means a change in attitudes for many, its forcing organisations to be less risk adverse, perhaps a difficult things for NGOs who are aware that everything is paid for by donations, but isn’t the spirit of social media to try things, knowing that some with fail, but many will succeed.
Politicans are using it The Economist reports on the use of Twitter among US senators , OK so the UK is different but number 10 has been twittering for the last 12 months, and now a number of MPs are.
Its growing and fast– are we witnessing a ‘tipping point’ for twitter?
Against Twitter
Who uses it? Twitter may have experienced phenomenal growth in a short time, but who actually uses it? Labour Home asks a good question. Is Twitter just the domain of a small circle of ‘early adopters’ or is it about to break into the mainstream.
Its more than a just another PR channel – it seems that those who have been most successful with Twitter have embraced the fact its a conversation not another place to post your press release to, but doing this well has time implications.
You need the right technology – unless you have a web enabled mobile its hard to really follow people. But sales of the iPhone and other similar phones would suggest that more and more people are adopting these
Does anyone care Tweetminster is a wonderful idea, but will most MPs respond to a question/comment via Twitter – especially when they’re isn’t any evidence that the followers are from their own constituencies.
Instinctively I’m an ‘early adopter’ so I think Twitter is a great thing. My early adventures (at a UN conference and on a trip to Liberia) have been fun and insightful for thinking about the possibilities of Twitter.
From those experiences I’ve learnt that you need to put some serious time into promoting your feed, and then keeping the messages going to build up a head of steam. Equally you need to invest in putting time into replying to others and building a network on line. Twitter is not going to replace the more traditional methods of communicating with decision makers, but it might be a new one, an opportunity to demonstrate concerns and put issues onto the agenda within moments.