One in 10 internet users in Australia are protesting online via change.org making us the second highest number of users of the website, per capita, globally.
A survey of change.org’s two million users shows that Australians are more engaged than ever when it comes to online activism around political and consumer issues.
But is the public being heard? Are these online protests working in effecting change?
According change.org, not only are we being heard but more than 100,000 Australians are part of a winning petition on the website every month.
The centre of the public debate is shifting online, says Change.org Australia director, Karen Skinner.
“What’s clear is that Australians are taking up online mediums to engage with politics and consumer brands in unprecedented numbers,” Skinner said in a press release to announce the survey results. “It’s also showing the power that brings to ordinary Australians – with every week bringing a new example of leaders being forced to change their mind due to online petitions.”
Skinner said the survey and data analysis revealed that:
- In the past year, there were 6.1 million Australian signatures on petitions on change.org – up from 2.1 million the previous year
- Australia had the second highest per capita number of change.org users of any country (8.8 per cent or one in 10 internet users)
- People from rural areas make up 40% of all Australian change.org users
- Each month around 100,000 Australians are part of a winning petition on change.org
- It’s estimated two thirds of Australian users are parents, and almost 70 per cent are over 45, with the largest group being between the ages of 55 and 64.
- Women, at 60 per cent of active users, are more engaged and active than men
To coincide with the change.org two million user milestone, the organisation has produced a downloadable PDF e-book that details the rise of the empowered citizen, trends in online campaigning and what’s in store for the future.
The change.org research reinforces what many observers of digital culture have been thinking for some time, and that is ‘people power’ is on the rise and it’s not just the online elite that is driving the shift in power. Which reminds me of a quote by Richard Edelman, head of the global Edelman PR firm:
“Influence has shifted from the hands of a few … to the fingertips of many.”
As social media continues to permeate every pore of society – as even the most basic user of the likes of Facebook and Twitter start discovering, participating on and leveraging crowd-sourcing platforms such change.org – then I can’t see this trend changing in a hurry. The ‘people power genie’ has been let out of the bottle, and it isn’t going back in!
Which means it’s up to Australia’s business, community and political leaders to adapt to today’s hyper-connected environment. And quickly.
They need to:
- become more accessible, transparent and authentic in their communications;
- speak in a language that people understand, not hide behind gobbledygook and jargon;
- wade into the ‘social waters’ and start building relationships with their constituents;
and most importantly …
- be human – listen – and respond in a timely (and respectful) manner.
But I’ll leave the last word to Karen Skinner from change.org, who says the new data showing the growing popularity of online campaigning among ordinary Australians presented a stark warning for political and corporate leaders.
“It’s more clear than ever that political and corporate leaders risk significant reputation damage if they’re not engaged online, and know what voters and consumers are discussing,” Skinner says.
“Our advice to leaders is to start getting online and be willing to enter a meaningful dialogue with the public – responsiveness is paramount in the new era of digital politics.”
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