By Linda Drummond @LindaDrummond

10th February 2014

I never thought that a conversation on Twitter would spread so far.

Like many people in Australia, I watched the news unfold about SPC Ardmona (SPCA) with increasing dismay. The thought of seeing farmers lose their livelihoods, the factory closing and the negative impact on the community gave me chills.

Buying local comes naturally to me, but I had to admit that when it came to SPC or Ardmona, my pantry didn’t feature any of the products.

So when I shared a few tweets with a Twitter friend about making an effort to buy SPC this week, I realised it needed to be bigger than just buying a token tin of tomates. To effect real change we needed a concerted effort by a wider community. It needed to become an event.

At 9:28 on Thursday night I sent out a tweet calling for people to eat peaches and ice cream on Sunday February 9. After getting an immediate response I saw that the event needed its own hashtag and the social media powerhouse that was #SPCsunday was born.

That night I tweeted a few people who I thought would be interested – Margo Kingston, SPCA Australia and Sharman Stone – and then bang, it took off. Within minutes there were retweets and conversations bouncing all over Twitter. Many passionate people were tweeting celebrities and politicians calling for their support. It was dizzying the speed at which it took off. Immediately it looked like a success.

Most marketing campaigns take months to conceive, but #SPCsunday was formulated in the same amount of time as it took for me to type 140 characters. I think the campaign appealed for a few reasons.

1. Deep down, Aussies love to support other Aussies
2. It appealed to a sense of nostalgia
3. It was a simple way of feeling like you’ve made a difference
4. The simplicity of sharing on social media.

Within 30 minutes I created a Facebook page to boost the social media share base and sent SPCA a message on their Facebook page. This page was shared on Twitter and 100 likes were gathered in record time.

By the following morning there was greater momentum. SPCA noticed the action, followed me on Twitter and sent me a direct message thanking me for my support. The company quickly made up promotional materials featuring the hashtag which SPCA shared on their Facebook page and on Twitter. SPCA also started to get very active on social media, picking up on the momentum and joining in.

Supporters have been widespread – with people tweeting pictures of the SPCA items they’ve purchased and showing what they’re eating. People joke about how people use social media to share their meals, with #SPCsunday that feature became an asset.

To make a real difference to a company you have to start with the basics – profitability. Regularly buying the products will make a difference to the company’s future in Australia. This is why this campaign can work. Yes, it’s only one day – but the overwhelming majority of people who’ve participated have said they’ll be doing it again. People are thinking of the origins of their food – who owns it, who grows it, who processes it – before they buy it.

Our harried shopping habits have become ingrained, many of us are so pressed for time that we’ll reach out and grab the item that’s displayed right within easy reach. Or we will spend time looking for the biggest bargain. Many of us are out of the habit of buying Aussie made, not because we don’t care, but we’ve forgotten how important it is.

Amongst the criticism of the campaign is the fact that SPCA’s parent company is Coca-Cola Amatil. Yes, they’re a highly profitable multinational. Yes, they have billions to invest, and they are prepared to invest. But why support a local company if it isn’t profitable and supported by a local market?

My motives behind this are wholly based on helping keep local farmers in business, keeping the factory workers employed, and ensuring that the local community stays afloat. Buying the product, in sufficient quantities, will help.

Obviously one day won’t make a difference. But one day per week might, particularly if people are buying a product that they don’t normally buy. I’ll guarantee you that more baked bean or spaghetti jaffles were eaten on Sunday February 9, 2014, than there were in the entire week preceding it.

This form of action worked because of the nature of social media. A simple hashtag and the click-of-a-button method of retweeting it meant that thousands of people could be exposed to the idea, and then continue to share it with their friends.

If people have the opportunity to help save a farming region, the workers and the wider company, and the surrounding communities, why wouldn’t they try? Why not be proactive and give it your best shot?

You never know, it might help.

Check out this Storify on #SPCsunday by Jen King.