On May 25, protesters around the world took part in what was probably the most successful global protest ever: the “March Against Monsanto.” Monsanto is an international agriculture and biotech company headquartered in Missouri. It has been the subject of controversy recently for its production of “genetically modified organisms” or GMOs, such as crops that produce their own insecticides or herbicides or require less water and fertilizer due to genetic modification in the laboratory. Some say that GMOs are hazardous to human health while others argue that GMO crops feed more people and use fewer resources.
To protest Monsanto’s actions, Tami Canal (an activist) created a Facebook page on Feb. 28 and posted the following: “I’m tired of the poisoning of our food supply. Will you help me organize a rally in your area? May 25th, 2013. Spread the word, Please!!”
The idea to hold a May 25 anti-Monsanto rally quickly went viral, and Canal was joined by other grassroots groups to spread the word and organize rallies.
To say that Canal was successful is an understatement: In just three months, the movement spread so rapidly through the Internet that by May 25, two million people (according to March Against Monsanto organizers) participated in rallies in 436 cities in 52 countries around the world. 155,000 people liked the Facebook page.
Once again: 90 days. 2 million people. 436 cities. 52 countries. 155,000 likes.
The very notion that anything can be organized in 90 days, whether it is a church picnic, a birthday party, a business conference, is a stretch these days. What March Against Monsanto accomplished reveals just how deep, pervasive and powerful social media has become, not just in the western, developed world, but in developing countries such as Nigeria and Guatemala, where protests were also held.
Canal’s goals at the outset were much more modest. She was quoted in the Washington Post after the events as saying, “If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success.” Instead, she had more than 600 times that many people get on board. All due to a Facebook page created on Feb. 28, a post, and the giant, rolling snowball that followed.
The takeway? If your company isn’t devoting significant resources to social media, whether through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, blogs, e-news or any of the myriad ways to interact with consumers, then it’s missing the boat. It can’t even see the boat. The boat—you get the picture.