The Birmingham Mail is to invite its readers and followers to sign up today to a week-long experiment with the ‘crowdspeaking’ platform Thunderclap.
Thunderclap, launched in 2012, allows users to sign up to send coordinated social media messages around a particular issue or campaign.
Staff at the paper have already started ‘seeding’ the campaign by emailing their own networks. An email from publishing director Marc Reeves explains:
“From the morning of Friday November 21, the Mail will be live blogging and live tweeting in ‘real time’ the events of the day, from the stories of those preparing for a night out on the town, to the moment the bomb warning was phoned through to the Post and Mail, to the reaction of the emergency services.
“At 8.17pm, the exact moment of the first detonation, the thunderclap will go out.”
Rather than users having to remember to send a tweet or Facebook or Tumblr update at exactly the same time, Thunderclap automates the process, creating a pre-planned ‘trending’ topic.
But there’s a catch: the updates are only sent if the campaign reaches a particular threshold of supporters within the one week time limit.
The reporter leading the campaign, Jonny Greatrex, says the newspaper wanted a ‘call to action’ for their audience linked to the 40th anniversary of the Birmingham pub bombings.
Having reported on West Midlands Police using the tool for a domestic violence campaign last December, he felt it might give the campaign to open a new inquiry into the bombings an extra boost.
“This Thunderclap has a reach of 600,000 already [the followers of those who have already signed up], and we have not started our public campaign yet – that starts on Monday.
Local historian Carl Chinn has also been filmed for a 30 second video on the Thunderclap page.
Thunderclap was used earlier this year by The Mirror for a Respect the Elderly campaign – falling over 300 people short of its target – but it is the first time a regional newspaper has used the tool.
Greatrex says the target of 500 signups in one week is “ambitious”, but that the campaign will still be triggered if the target is not reached.
“It shows how we now have the chance for our content and campaigns to reach more people than ever.
“You’d have to go quite a long way back through the decades to find the point when we could last say a specific piece of content and campaign reached so many people. Our aim is to get this figure into the millions to create a new wave of support for #justice4the21.”
The campaign can be found on Thunderclap here. A section of the email can be seen below: