In ‘Revolution 2.‘, Egyptian Google executive Wael Ghonim describes how he used traditional marketing practices to galvanize and mobilize the members of the Facebook group he’d created, Kullena Khaled Said (‘We Are All Khaled Said‘), in order to achieve justice for a young Egyptian man who mysteriously died while being arrested by Egyptian police in June of 21. This Facebook group eventually played a pivotal role in the Egyptian revolution.
According to Ghonim, he employed “sales funnel” marketing in order to mobilize public support for the cause of demanding justice for Said’s death. His approach included the following steps:
- Convince people to join the Facebook page and read its posts
- Convince users to interact with content by ‘liking’ and commenting on posts
- Move them to participate in the page’s online campaigns, and even to contribute their own content
- Take the activism to the streets
In order to get each member to feel as if the movement was just as much his or hers as anyone else’s, and also to assuage the fears that so many members held of government retribution, Ghonim asked the members to take pictures of themselves holding up signs that read “Kullena Khaled Said,” and post them to the group’s page.
Hundreds of people — men and women of all ages and backgrounds, and even expatriate Egyptians — sent in photos of themselves holding those signs, which Ghonim published on the Facebook page. These images, says Ghonim, had more impact than any words might have. They put a face to the movement, personifying the members of the group as the movement itself.
Ghonim goes on to describe one particularly stirring photo:
(A) pregnant woman sent us an ultrasonographic image of her fetus with a caption that read: “My name is Khaled, and I’m coming to the world in three months. I will never forget Khaled Said and I will demand justice for his case.”
These images proved to be profoundly effective in creating and galvanizing the group’s community. Members affirmed the message of those in the images by commenting on the photos, thanking them for their bravery. “Such admiration and instant positive interaction,” says Ghonim, “encouraged even more members to post their pictures.”
Many in the United States will recognize the methods used by the members of Kullena Khaled Said as something similar to the elements employed in the We Are the 99 Percent Tumblr associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
This Tumblr, which took off about a week before the September 17 occupation of Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, New York, is comprised of a series of photos of men and women of various ages, races and economic backgrounds. In each photo, the person holds up a piece of paper telling his or her story of economic hardship. These stories often include somewhat personal information, such as job status, mental illness or family tragedy.
The Tumblr, which is still active today, was similar to Ghonim’s photo campaign in that it provided other Americans the means to connect on an emotional level. People would ‘like’ or reblog photos, as well as send in their own pictures for posting on the Tumblr.
This blog quickly became the online personification of the Occupy Wall Street movement, allowing Americans from all geographic regions and personal backgrounds to take part in a movement whose physical manifestation initially took up nothing more than a 33, square-foot plot of Manhattan real estate.
Although we can never be sure precisely how effective these social media memes were in getting their proponents out into the streets for their causes, it is worth noting that both Ghonim’s Facebook group and the ‘We are the 99 Percent’ Tumblr successfully employed similar methods in galvanizing and mobilizing their movements online.
We may want to pay attention to social and political movements in the future, and see if similar marketing methods are employed.