A petition to save Beau the dog became Change.org’s most popular animal victory and the fourth most popular victory of all time when more than 630,000 people stopped the city of Dyersburg, Tennessee from putting him down. Millions more have supported a variety of animal petitions and victories on the site, making animal protection the most popular cause area on Change.org.
So when petitions to stop the Dog Meat Festival in Yulin started gaining traction in early June, we knew people would voice support. But the response was even bigger than we anticipated.
“Stop the Yulin Dog Meat Eating Festival,” a petition started by Raise UR Paw, reached nearly 4.3 million signatures making it the most signed active petition on Change.org of all time. The second most signed Yulin petition was started by Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project and reached 1.5 million signatures.
The Yulin Dog Meat Festival is an annual summer solstice event in Yulin, China, where it is estimated that nearly 10,000 dogs are legally killed for meat. Petitions about the event not only question the broader practice of eating dog meat, but also the way the animals are treated and the meat is handled.
While the festival occurred as planned this year, these two petitions went viral last month, leading a wave of global support for the cause that peaked in the days leading up to the festival and still continues to grow.
The map below shows the growth of signatures on the two largest petitions, giving us a sense of their geographic reach and momentum of these petition. Across both petitions, we found the biggest pockets of support in the US, Turkey, UK, France, and Italy.
Six million people around the world added their signatures to these two petitions. Would your jaw drop to learn that almost all of those signatures were gathered in the last month?
While both of these petitions were started a year ago, until recently they had only a small number of supporters. The larger of the two had just 16,000 signatures in February. Four months later and the signature count grew by more than 26,000%, with almost all of that growth happening in the two weeks prior to the festival.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. How can my organization do that? Well, you came to the right place.
Here are the four ways that you can make your campaigns go viral like the Yulin petitions:
1. Find celebrity influencers to share the petition on social media
On June 7 the Raise UR Paw petition garnered 4,547 signatures. It was the first time the petition gained more 1,000 signatures in a day. It was also the same day that comedian Ricky Gervais - a big animal welfare advocate - tweeted the petition to his followers. He was retweeted more than 5,000 times, and in the following two days the petition accumulated 14,847 and 15,133 signatures, respectively. Coincidence? I think not.
There are many types of influencers on social media, but as we well know, celebrities are some of the most impactful. They often have large, diverse followings across platforms and their posts are among the most shared regardless of topic. Get a celebrity to share your cause and you are bound to see increased awareness.
Our most popular Yulin petitions saw slow growth for almost a year before the signatures spiked in June as a result of celebrities talking about #StopYulin2015 on social media:
2. Leverage social media buzz to garner global media attention
It’s not just fans that listen to celebrities, the media also takes note. As more celebrities drew attention to the petitions, and support grew using hashtags like #StopYulin2015, mainstream media started writing.
The festival and the related petitions were reported in Argentina’s Clarín, UK’s BBC Trending, Spain’s El País , India’s Mid Day, Indonesia’s The Jakarta Post, Thailand’s Thairath, Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, and US’s The New York Times, among other many other publications.
Media coverage extended awareness further than social media ever could alone. And as more media covered the petitions in the week leading up to the festival, signature levels hit their peak.
3. Create urgency with time constraints
Time, or the lack of it, was a major signature driver for these petitions. As time ticked by, the call to stop the festival became more urgent, and it was this sense of urgency that drove huge increases in signature counts.
For our two most popular Yulin petitions, the majority of signatures were generated in the week leading up to the June 21 festival. Sixty-three percent of Raise UR Paw’s total signatures were added by supporters from June 14 to June 21. The Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project’s petition attracted 73% of its total signatures during that timeframe.
These graphs below shows the number of signatures per day collected by the petitions. The sharp spike in each graph illustrates the impact of that urgency in the week before the festival.
4. Encourage people to start their own petitions
There are more than 1,500 Change.org petitions to stop the Yulin Dog Meat Festival. Eighteen of those petitions were started on the site prior to 2015 and an additional 15 were started between January 1 and June 6, 2015. The remaining 98% of petitions were all started after June 7th, after Ricky Gervais’s tweet.
Among the Yulin petitions that appeared since June 7, 27% were started on or after the festival took place, highlighting the a desire to halt next year’s festival. The surge in petition creation is further proof that the journey is not over for these supporters.
Are you looking for more ways to grow your movement?