The Anti-Trump March that Needs to Thank Facebook
The Women’s March that took place in cities around the world on the 21st of January in protest against Donald Trump’s anti-feminist remarks and policies is estimated to have been the largest one-day protest in US history. Without the power of Facebook to spread messages rapidly among groups of like-minded people, it is unlikely that it would have happened on anything like the same scale. Remarkably, the march began as an event posted by a retired grandmother rather than by a national mass membership organisation.
Teresa Shook, a former lawyer from Hawaii, was outraged by the election of a candidate who had been caught bragging about his fame giving him license to grab women’s genitalia and who was running on an anti-abortion ticket. Her first act after the result was clear was to post on a private Hillary Clinton supporters’ Facebook page calling for them to march on Washington. This received a single response before Shook created a Facebook event page for the march and invited a few of her friends to join.
The following morning Teresa awoke to find that more than 300,000 people were interested in attending the march. Among them were women who were willing and able to participate in organising the march. This resulted in the key organising group being set up and expanded to help broaden out the appeal of the march to different demographic groups.
In addition, people from cities across the USA and the rest of the world began to express an interest in taking part in sister marches to the original one planned for Washington. While it is impossible to get a completely accurate idea of the number of people who took part in the various marches. crowd counters have estimated that the US total was almost certainly in excess of 3.7 million people.
In Washington alone, more than 500,000 are believed to have taken part. This is more than three times the number that is estimated to have turned up to watch Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony the day before. While Washington is a Democrat-dominated city which tends to turn out for Democrat Presidents and not for Republicans, this is still a remarkable achievement to have been set up by the actions of a single woman and carried through to fruition in barely four weeks.
The march in Washington ended up being so well attended that it had to be converted into a rally on the day itself as a march with so many participants would have been unmanageable.
The Women’s March stands as one of the most spectacular examples of the power of social media as a tool for organising and communicating with people. If a Facebook post catches the imagination of a member of a sizeable interest group, then it can explode in popularity and be dispersed virally over huge geographic areas. The benefits of this ability to rapidly disseminate messages to people who want to hear them is of as much interest to marketers as it is to campaigners.