#ThumbsUpForStephen and #YesAllWomen

Two big events galvanised people into social media action this week. What can we learn from them?


More than 18,000 people signed up to the Thunderclap at 11am on Friday to say #ThumbsUpForStephen giving the hashtag a reach of 6m. Many thousands more took a photo of themselves giving the thumbs up. On Thursday the JustGiving total exceeded £4m and continues to grow (currently standing at a staggering £4.16m). Stephen’s funeral and the social media activity around it was reported on the news and was the third biggest story on the BBC website.

Teenage Cancer Trust marked the occasion with a wall of 36 thumbs up pictures:

And many charities joined in with their own team efforts (storified here by @LondonKirsty).

The thumbs up was so brilliant as it mirrored Stephen’s final hospital picture which was the turning point for his story. Unlike the explosion of #nomakeupselfe earlier in the year, it didn’t feel forced or self-congratulatory. It was a positive thing to do to celebrate someone who had inspired and touched so many.


Over 600,000 tweets have been written using the #YesAllWomen hashtag which started in America on 25 May. It has been covered by Time Magazine and storified by many including the Wall Street Journal. Global VAW charity The Pixel Project joined in by RTing lots of messages. The volume of tweets sharing stories of rape, harassment and fear was shocking, even more so during a week of horrible stories about women in the news.

What can we learn from these events?

  • People like to join in – whether they are motivated by a person or a cause, people like to have a way of showing their support or sharing their views. Social media is a perfect mechanism for them to do this. As digital communicators, we need to facilitate the joining in. We need to come up with inspiring (and short) hashtags which are clear and easy to find (pinned tweets are perfect for this) and promote them across our channels (not just social media but email, homepage, internal comms etc). We need to make sure that the actions we are suggesting are appropriate and do-able.
  • Mass events like these happen organically – they can’t be manufactured or predicted. Only authentic events work (generally started outside of an organisation). These start small, spreading into the mainstream as they are accepted. To take off, they usually have mass appeal (such as cancer, children, dementia) or are a reaction to something on the news / telly / a shared experience. (Take a look at Leon Ward’s Civil Society article about 2014’s first four big social media events for some examples.) When events or their catalysts do happen, we need to know about them early on and know how to react quickly (even if this is not doing anything publicly). If your followers are talking about something related to your work or cause, even if you didn’t start it, you need to decide whether to join in. #ThumbsUpForStephen and #YesAllWomen show that charities can and should get involved in events like these. It helps show that you are part of the conversation. See the #nomakeupselfie post for more on this.
  • Social media is a big part of our culture – big events such as these reach mainstream press, raise big money and galvanise lots of people.
  • Slackavism works – a £3 text donation or a tweet sharing an experience when it is alongside thousands of others is powerful.

What do you think?

Did you join in with #ThumbsUpForStephen or #YesAllWomen? Did other campaigns suffer this week because of the volume of these events? What other things can we learn from how social media is evolving? I’d love to hear what you think.

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