There was some whoopin’ and hollerin’ round here today, as our goal to set a world record for number of comments in a Facebook thread was shattered. The Guinness Book of World Records pegged our goal at 50,000 comments in 24 hours. We did it in 10 hours and 50 minutes flat.
The clock is still running, and it looks likely we’ll actually hit 100,000 by the time the 24 hours is up. (Update: we made 80,214 by the close of the 24 hours.)
Our message? Facebook, you really want to listen to the people here and get your data centres off coal. Clean, green renewable energy is what they want, and what they expect of a cutting edge company full of young people who’ll be around to see the climate catastrophe we’re heading for if things don’t start to change.
Here at Greenpeace in Amsterdam, team Facebook put a hell of a lot of effort into this push, wrangling offices and supporters around the world, setting up promotional materials and laying out plans which would all come down to perfect timing. Today they orchestrated that magic experience of aligning all of us in a single-minded, adrenaline-fueled focus with big bursts of energy and count down shout outs as we watched the numbers climb:
5,000 comments after an hour twenty minutes. 10,000 after two hours fifty minutes, 20,000 after five hours ten minutes. We started at 7am European time, and as the US and Latin America woke up, we saw the post rate take off: pretty soon we knew we’d make the 50K at some point late in our work day, and the bets came out about when we’d hit. (I chose an optimistic 4pm. We hit it at just before 6pm.)
We also kept up, as best we could, with actually READING the comments as they came through, looking for the best of the best to win T-shirts. A few of my faves:
Hey FB, don’t be like BP, or our future would be R.I.P
I hear Facebook is kind of a big deal. Some tree hugger convinced me that the environment is important. Sounds like a simbiotic relationship or something.
I’d like a bagel.
Clean is green,
Not crazy like Charlie Sheen,
Or mean like the Republican voting machine.
So, please try to do the right thing,
and when it comes to coal don’t be a fiend!
I’m sorry Coal… it’s not me it’s You. I’ve found someone who’s not as smelly and is really awesome, and unlike you is really popular. I know you want one last fling, but seriously, my heart belongs to Ren.
My boss said it was odd to get involved with this.. I am willing to spend the rest of my working day putting comments in to bump up numbers and prove him wrong
There once was a fellow named Zuck
Who made good with his skillz and his luck
He created a race, chook,
for the future, with Facebook
Then he ran it on COAL? WTF?
Clay Shirky said something at SXSW that really struck me: “Governments [And I’d add, Corporations] don’t fear informed individuals. They fear synchronized movements.” That put a finger on something that’s been informing our work here at Greenpeace to move from viewing the web as an information distribution system to an action community. We’ve put years of effort into building our Facebook following into the biggest environmental non-profit on the platform, into nurturing followers on Twitter, into developing our email lists worldwide, not for the sake of getting the word out about how bad things are, but for alerting people about what they can do. I heard a casual comment yesterday that our record won’t stand long “once people see how easy it was.” Ahh, now there I beg to differ. We, the Greenpeace community writ large, may have made it look easy, but the digital network that connects those people, the means we’ve created to reach 11 million subscribers worldwide, and the allegiance that they feel to our work has been built up over decades. And let’s not discount the creativity it took Team Facebook to come up with this ask in the first place: it’s kinda left-field thinking to make the jump from “What can people do to stop climate change” to “Let’s send a message to Facebook through a world-record comment attempt.” It ain’t easy coming up with bite-sized things that people can do, actions in which all of us individually see our role as meaningful and essential to the effort’s overall success, and which further a campaign along its critical pathway toward success. Cleverly, the campaign team also grabbed the names and handles of Facebook employees and tagged them in the comment stream to make sure our “inreach” communications to the fine people who run Facebook got through.
This was a brilliant example of looking at the available resource: lots and lots of people who want Facebook to use renewable energy, and figuring out a way they could be essential players in getting that message out. There are some actions which only Greenpeace can do: when we put activists on oil rigs or out in front of harpoons, they may be proxy representatives of our supporter base, but our supporters are witnesses and enablers rather than participants in those actions. But when we orchestrate an action like the World Record attempt, it’s us, Greenpeace the institution, who are the witnesses and enablers, and the supporters who are the activists, the doers, the ones without whom this effort will not happen.
Today was a good day. But the best will be the day we actually win this campaign. C’mon Facebook, we’d love to break open a bottle of champagne with you and toast a safe, green, renewable energy future. Like?