The Success of the Occupy Wall Street Movement due to Twitter

Master's Thesis, 2012

34 Pages, Grade: B2



1.1 Keywords



4.The Occupy Movement
4.1 The Arab Spring Influence
4.2 Motivations behind Occupy Wall Street
4.3 The Spread of the Occupy Movement

5.Social media
5.1 Introduction to Social Media
5.2 Facebook
5.3 Smartphones

6.Twitters Influence on the Occupy Movement
6.1 What is Twitter?
6.2 Raising Awareness of the Occupy Movement
6.3 Organisation of the Protests
6.4 Sending Updates during the Protests

7.Consumer Decision Journey

8.Mass behavior
8.1 Word of Mouth
8.2 The Influencers

9.The Down Sides to Social Medias Influence on Mass Behavior
9.1 Cronulla Riots
9.2 London Riots

10.Has the Occupy Wall Street movement been successful?

11.The Future for Occupy Wall Street



1. Abstract

The “Occupy Movement” is an international protest movement driven by people’s discontent with social and economic inequality. This paper is based primarily on Mark Earls book 'Herd', particularly his research regarding how “All mass behavior is a result of interacting individuals within a specific context” (Herd 2009 p.147). It will examine social media’s ability to magnify how word of mouth can influence mass behavior also considering Seth Godin book “Tribes” in this context and the increased speed at which this can happen due to social media (Godin 2008). The paper discusses how the Occupy Movement was partly inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings which had already demonstrated the power that social media can have on mass behavior throughout 2011. “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and youtube to tell the world” was exclaimed by a Cairo activist to convey how they were leveraging social media to their advantage during the riots in Egypt (Casilli & Tubaro 2011). Social media refers to the use of both web-based and mobile technologies to allow people to communicate with each other and build relationships. Micro blogging sites such Twitter fall under the large scope of social media, as do social networking sites such as Facebook. Since the advent of Smartphones, people have access to social media sites at all times. People often look to Twitter for news first as updates about current events often appear on Twitter before they appear on major news outlets, The paper will discuss both the advantages of disadvantages of how social media can be utilized by the people involved in protests or riots by comparing the Cronulla riots of 2005 against the London riots of 2011 when social media was much more accessible and common place. The paper will also look at how the Occupy Movement spread across the world very quickly and discuss Occupy Wall Street’s future from the view point of it being a brand. It will conclude by showing that the Occupy Movement can attribute its growth and participation to social media’s effect on mass behavior, and in particular why Twitter is largely responsible for its success.

1.1 Keywords

Social Media, Mass Behavior, Egyptian Revolution, Arab Spring, Twitter, Smartphones,

Facebook, Flickr, Filter Bubble, Civil Violence, Occupy Wall Street

2. Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge and send my heartfelt gratitude to the following persons who have made the completion of this paper possible:

Dr. Matt Cannon, for his great advice & guidance.

My parents Stephen & Maureen, and my siblings, Brendan & Sarah for their support and encouragement.

The faculty members and staff of the Kemmy Business School for making this year in college so enjoyable and beneficial.

Thank you all sincerely.

3. Introduction

“We are a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century”(

In 1989 Kalle Lasn and Bill Schmalz created the Adbusters Media Foundation. Adbusters started out as an activist magazine with the objective of combating consumerism. In early June of 2011, Adbusters sent an email to its subscribers saying that “America needs its own Tahrir”(Schwartz 2011) referring to Tahrir Square in Cairo, the focal point of the Egyptian Revolution. On June 9th the domain name was registered.

“A movement is thrilling. It’s the work of many people, all connected, all seeking something better. The new highly leveraged tools of the Net makes it easier than ever to create a movement, to make things happen, to get things done. All that’s missing is leadership.”(Tribes 2008 p.5).

Modern thinkers such as Seth Godin and Mark Earls share a common idea about mass behavior, about how certain people referred to by Malcolm Gladwell as “connectors” in society can influence the behavior and actions of the masses (Gladwell 2000). Prior to the emergence of social media these connectors were mainly people in power and people who were famous. Celebrities set trends that influenced what we spent our money on as consumers. Politicians told us how to vote and how to think. While these types of connectors still have a major influence on us, social media has enabled people to discuss issues that affect the masses by allowing like mined people to connect on a national or even a global scale. As an organisation, the Occupy Movement has a democratic style of leadership. This participative approach in organising the protests has proved a much better way to take advantage of social media as opposed to the authoritarian leadership approach present in many organisations of the past.

On the 17th of September 2011 in New York City, Occupy Wall Street began as an estimated 1000 protestors “occupied” Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. The protestors used the slogan “We are the 99%”; this refers to the concentration of wealth amongst 1% of the world’s population. The objective of the Occupy Wall Street Movement was to protest against the distribution of wealth in society and highlight how political failures have led to this economic inequality. The number of posts, comments and likes referring to the event began to soar on Facebook and tweets with the hashtags #Occupywallstreet and #ows quickly began to trend on Twitter. By October 29th it is estimated that there were 2300 protests happening in 2000 cities around the world, Occupy Wall Street had become a global movement.

4. The Occupy Movement

4.1 The Arab Spring Influence

Before discussing the rise of the Occupy Movement, it is necessary to look at the large scale revolutionary protests that occurred prior to the Occupy Movement that is said to have inspired not just the movement itself but how it was managed by the protestors. This refers to the Arab Spring and its use of social media for both organisation and publicity.

The Arab Spring began on December 18th 2010 in Tunisia, and quickly spread across Northern Africa and the Middle East. There are a number of motivations that had led to the protests such as government corruption, economic decline, unemployment and human rights violations. The countries involved shared these issues but it is the speed at which the uprising spread across borders that demonstrates the profound effect social media had. As stated above, the revolution in Tunisia began on the 18th of December 2010, by the end of January 2011, 9 other countries had begun their protests. Regarding the Egyptian uprising; “The fact that the crisis occurred sooner rather later, in direct follow-up to protests in Tunisia, was largely due to the initial mobilizing effect of ICT and social media networks”(Stepanva 2011 p.1). Stepanva goes on to claim that social media sites such as Facebook made a vital contribution in kick starting campaigns that lead to Governments in Egypt and Tunisia being overthrown and to sociopolitical mobilisation in Syria and Bahrain.

Occupy Wall Street, the first of the Occupy Movements began on September 17th 2011, just 9 months after the first uprising of the Arab Spring in Tunisia and 8 months after tens of thousands of protestors of the Egyptian Revolutionary famously gathered together in Tahrir Square in Cairo to make their stand against their government. Similarities between the protests in Cairo and those of the Occupy Movement can be made on three different bases. Firstly, the profile of the individuals involves. Van Stekelenburg describes the mass members of the Occupy Movement as young, educated and likely to be unemployed which is similar to the profile of the members of the Arab Spring, “young, urban and relatively educated” (Stepanva 2011 p.2). Secondly, the similarities in both groups motivations for protesting, particularly their discontent with their respective governments failures in terms of unemployment and corruption with large emphasis on the distribution of wealth by the Occupy Movement. Thirdly, in terms of the organisation of the riots, one columnist for the New York Times said that the scenes in Zuccotti Park reminded him of the protests in Egypt, ” Clever use of social media, festival like atmosphere and a deeply felt feeling of frustration”(Valk in Stekenlenburg 2012).

4.2 Motivations behind Occupy Wall Street

The motivations for the Occupy Movement are based on the discontentment with the distribution of wealth in the United States economy. According to a report from The Guardian in November 2011, the richest 1% of the USA own 1/3 of the wealth. This report also states that the United States has a staggering 3.1 million millionaires and 400 billionaires. Between 2006 & 2010, earnings in the 24 million poorest households went down 10% while the richest 400 were down just 4% including inflation. Also in this time frame, there is been a rise in sales of luxury goods. Brands such as Porsche, Gucci and Tiffany’s Jewelers have seen increases profits, while on the opposite end of the scale, 1 in every 7 American families are living below the poverty line (The Guardian 2011). As stated on,

“#ows(Occupy Wall Street) is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations.”( 2012)

So it is the combination of these motivations coupled with the inspiration of the success of the Arab Spring that lead to the Occupy Wall Street protests that started the Occupy Movement.


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The Success of the Occupy Wall Street Movement due to Twitter
University of Limerick
Masters in Business Management
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success, occupy, wall, street, movement, twitter
Quote paper
Finbar O' Grady (Author), 2012, The Success of the Occupy Wall Street Movement due to Twitter, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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