Twitter users gather promptly for online protest

Residents of the Loughborough Park estate in Brixton took to Twitter today for a two-hour protest against housing provider Guinness Trust‘s plan to evict some tenants as part of regeneration plans.

What’s unusual about this particular protest is that it was advertised in advance. Many organisation’s are not afforded the opportunity to plan their response to a specific online protest in advance as reputational crises often spring up and catch us off-guard.

In some respects this protest has a lot in common with traditional gatherings of people with placards and megaphones outside company headquarters – instead of passing drivers honking horns they were looking to engage with other Twitter users. This particular co-ordinated action didn’t rely on Thunderclap to deliver one loud message all at once but instead involved Twitter users sending 189 negative tweets in Guinness’ direction.

This also took place at the same time as Guinness were live-tweeting their Aspire awards event – helping tenants to undertake learning and training.

Either through luck or design the tweets from tenants’ groups all but drowned out the positive message Guinness Trust were seeking to promote.

Protestors also attempted to sour good feeling generated by the awards by alerting award winners to plans to evict people with assured shorthold tenancy agreements in 2015.

This wasn’t entirely successful as award winners didn’t seem to mind – their own positive experience detached from those of people in Lambeth. Guinness Trust quickly tweeted their prepared statement on Loughborough Park and did not engage with those tweeting, with the exception of a journalist from Buzzfeed.

This may have been a wise decision as further responses may have escalated this situation and the comms team can only have been aware that they just had to ride the storm out for a couple of hours. They may also be relieved that the hashtag for their event was not hi-jacked and that attendees seem unperturbed.

It will be interesting to see whether the protest generates traditional media coverage of the campaign as a quick Google fails to turn-up much in print about the residents’ situation.

As disgruntled residents take to social media more frequently this type of organised online dissent may become more commonplace and comms teams will need to sharpen up their strategy for dealing with planned and un-foreseen reputational risks.

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