How the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” Nailed Social Media
“Jon [Stewart] wants to harness the public’s frustration. I want to bombard the public’s frustration with gamma rays until it turns on its master with a lust for blood.”
So sayeth Stephen Colbert in support of his upcoming “The March to Keep Fear Alive,” a mock political rally taking place October 30 on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall. That rally is being met by Jon Stewart’s own mock political rally called “The Rally to Restore Sanity.” While the sides could not be more starkly drawn, the two rallies share an increasing awareness of how social media can help fans across the world become part of the sanity/fear-mongering/hilarity.
The two rallies, occurring at the same time and jointly held by Colbert and Stewart as one event, have managed to mobilize their fans and people across the country in just one month. In roughly 30 days, the event has spawned a number of sites and mini web-campaigns.
Engaging Through Social Media
The sites offer surprisingly robust options for such a quick turnaround. Fans of Stewart can head to the Sanitysite for updates, merchandise (proceeds go to charity), and to see if rally signs are suitably “sane.” Fans of Colbert can head to the Fear site for its own Halloween-themed app called “Spooky or Dooky” where fans can upload and vote on people dressing up as their worst fears (examples include hippies, tanks and ninjas).
Both sites also have dedicated social good options, with Stewart offering a link to donate to the Trust for the National Mall and Colbert directing people to DonorsChoose.org. Rather than serving as simple news pages, the rallies’ individual websites have taken active roles in galvanizing their fans to participate while offering real value.
The Main Attraction
The event itself has loaded on social media features with a planned, uncensored live stream throughDailyshow.com, ColbertNation.com and ComedyCentral.com that will also work on mobile devices.Foursquare badges will also be available on October 30 in both Sanity and Fear flavors.
Anyone somehow unable to access the live stream can follow the action through the live tweets from the competing Twitter accounts — @Rally4Sanity and @StephenAtHome — offering info up to and throughout the event. Don’t like Twitter? Text RALLY or MARCH to 44686 for text updates or check out their Facebook Pages: Sanity, Fear.
How They Did It
Social media is too often an afterthought — a detail stapled onto traditional media. The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear has taken the most traditional form there is — speaking to a large group of people in person — and made it a social media vehicle. The websites each offer all the updates and news that users have come to expect from event sites. The addition of unique apps, like Stewart’s sanity signs or Colbert’s spooky costumes show a desire to engage the users.
“It’s hard to imagine pulling something like this off where you couldn’t have the underpinnings of Twitter orFacebook to rally the people that are participating,” said Erik Flannigan, EVP of digital media at Comedy Central/Spike TV.
The goal was to use social media to help fans feel like they were participating in the rallies.
“We want to memorialize what’s happening on the [National] Mall, not just what’s happening on stage” Flannigan said.
By reaching out to several social networks, the team at Comedy Central hopes to see the rallies trending in several fields, allowing users to connect however they like. Don’t have Twitter? Sign in with Foursquare, post to Facebook or simply snap a photo to share later.
Of course, it helps when your spokespeople are two of the brightest, funniest, fake-newscastiest people on television. The faux competitiveness of the event encourages fans to pick a side and fight for it. The naturally engaged fans of Stewart and Colbert are prime examples of how to do social media right: Rather than selling a product, the shows and their respective personalities are building communities. There are currently 1,000 related meetups planned worldwide, while the e-mail blasts for the two shows have jumped by more than 150,000 new subscribers, combined.
As a lampoon of the bipartisan silliness of American politics, Stewart and Colbert’s competing rallies were guaranteed to be a success. As a way of engaging with their audience, earning new followers and maximizing the reach of social media, the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear might just be setting the model.
What do you think of the rallies? What have they done and what could the event do better? Will you be participating? And more importantly, do you settle on the side of Sanity or Fear?