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Is the #ilovemcr Twitter campaign counter-productive?

When the Manchester riots kicked off last month, Twitter went into overdrive, with city residents tweeting information about what was going on and, most importantly, where it was happening.

One of the most common tweets, which did the rounds the night before rioting began, was a quote from Tony Wilson. It was one I retweeted myself. It read: “This is Manchester. We do things differently here.”

After the riots ended, Manchester City Council launched its ‘I Love MCR’ campaign, complete with the hash tag #ilovemcr and a logo taken from a 40-year-old New York advertising campaign. It could have, but didn’t, take inspiration from the organic charm of the riot clean-ups around the UK, nor did it attempt to exploit advances in technology by putting QR codes or augmented reality features on ‘I Love MCR’ posters around the city. We didn’t do things differently.

The idea of the #ilovemcr hash tag was that people from all over Manchester would tweet the things they love about the city in an act of solidarity. There’s no faulting the idea or the sentiment behind those tweeting, but who exactly was tweeting? In my own personal experience, Twitter is a largely middle-class pursuit. Its very nature, largely idle thoughts on nothing, fits snugly alongside traditional definitions of middle-class living. It is no great leap of faith to assume that the #ilovemcr hash tag was primarily frequented by those in the middle class.

A trip through Manchester, all of it – not just the Northern Quarter and South Manchester – shows that the city has by no means shed its working class roots. The differences between Didsbury and Moston, or Fallowfield and Blackley, are almost unreal. The money pumped into the Northern Quarter – which was almost unrecognisable 20 years ago – must be considerably larger than investment north of the city centre. Now, with the #ilovemanchester campaign, the poorer half of the city may be excluded again. I love Manchester, but Manchester is not just the Northern Quarter and South Manchester.

I don’t know exactly why people decided to riot last month, but it isn’t outlandish to suggest that an underlying social unrest over the divide between Manchester’s haves and the have-nots could be responsible. By attempting to stage some sort of reconciliation on Twitter, a middle-class platform, that margin can only get bigger.

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  • Anonymous

    As someone who lives in the Northern Quarter, viewed the riots for myself and works in social media marketing I found this a very insightful, open-minded and unbiased post by Michael.

  • Simple Searches

    As a working class person, I find a middle class person writing stuff to gain a reaction same old, same old. So your stats say Twitter is for mainly middle class people and they should have taken inspiration from the organic charm of the “Riot Clean-ups” done by mainly middle class people. The campaign didn’t use QR codes or Augmented reality, for phones used mainly by middle class people. Sometime people say negative things just to get an reaction and this is a great example of it. Remember the words you stole “This is Manchester. We do things differently here.” now go do it.

    • Rebecca

      Why assume Michael is middle class? He didn’t ‘steal’ the phrase “This is Manchester. We do things differently here.”, he just quoted it. And whether it gets attention or not, this is genuinely how some people feel about the campaign.

    • Tom Procter

      Define working class…

      • James Sims

        “those employed in lower tier jobs (as measured by skill, education and lower incomes), often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes”

  • Katrina

    Good post, but I personally think the riot was a divide between Manchester’s work-for-it’s and steal-for-it’s, rather than Manchester’s haves and the have-nots.

    • James Sims

      Considering we have an unemplyment rate of about 8% in the north west, I’m guessing there are quite a lot of people that would actually love to be a “work-for-it”.

      That doesn’t justify looting at all, but to imply that “bah, why don’t they just get a job” is just naive in my mind…

      • Katrina

        There were employed people involved in the looting – and I reckon there are a fair few unemployed people who think it’s unacceptable to steal trainers on the back of a peaceful protest.

        • James Sims

          Yeah I totally agree, it doesn’t excuse their actions at all. Just saying that there *are* social problems that could be seen as contributing to the issue.

  • Tom Procter

    Good post, however I disagree with some of the points. For example, the riots snow balled due to social media activity, in particular, Twitter. Therefore it would be unfair to say that Twitter is predominantly middle class, unless of course you were to follow that up and suggest that it was actually middle class people that were looting?

    I think it would take more than a change in direction on Twitter to bridge the growing gap between social classes.

    • Rebecca

      Weren’t it supposed to be that BlackBerry Messenger what started it all? Seriously though, I don’t think it’s fair to say that ANY social media made the riots snowball. Riots have been happening since before electricity and that. People will always find a way of doing what they want to do. Ban talking, writing and eye contact, that’s what I say.

      • Anonymous

        True true. I agree, riots have been around for a long time. However, in this particular instance, social media activity definitely contributed to what seemed like a senseless riot. From my limited knowledge (I don’t pretend to be a history expert for one second, I recall sitting in the back of history attempting to get the teacher to talk about the weekend car boot sales instead of teaching us…), riots in the past had a little more reason behind them and started off as people getting together for peaceful protest so they could be heard as a collective. With modern interventions such as social media, you’re the voice… try to understand it.

        • Rebecca

          yeah maybe, but then we’re do we cut it off? People would have just text/ Skyped/ Wap chat roomed each other if Twitter was shut off…. Ban laptops/ phones? I think social media ended up doing more good than harm.

          • Anonymous

            what would John Farnham do?

          • Katrina

            “I think social media ended up doing more good than harm.”
            I disagree.
            The clean-up and the #ILoveMCR campaign were nice, but the riots (which were heightened as a result of mobile, social and traditional media) caused massive damage to the businesses involved directly, and will have a serious impact on tourism in the area.

    • Audio Silver Lining

      Er no – Twitter didn’t factor into it at all – was this opinion pulled from the Daily Express?

      • Anonymous

        Partly… (looks ashamed), but I also saw activity myself, including this: – so to say it “didn’t factor at all” is a little unfair.

        • Rebecca

          Yeah, it certainly didn’t NOT factor… but you’d hope that tweets like that only helped the police.

  • James Chapman


  • Melanie O’Grady

    Umm I’ve got mixed reviews about this. Yes, Manchester is not just the centre and NQ. But would you expect people to want to go to a festival held by the ilovemcr campaign held in Salford. I doubt it.!! Especially seen as the majority of people who took part in the riots came from Salford, after all that’s where it kicked off first. Could you see yourself going to a friendly festival in Salford?
    Places like the NQ do make Manchester different from other cities so why not plug that area.
    I think you just hate South MCR n NQ for some reason.
    This is your problem. So stop trying to turn it into a class debate.

    • Rebecca

      Ay ay, what’re you sayin’ about Salford? I live in Salford (and I’m scouse). Hide your wife, hide your kids. Just so you know by the way: (A friendly festival that people go to in Salford. It’s really hip too)

    • Andrew Nattan

      I agree. Can’t have nice, middle-class Mancunians wander into Salford. Poor darlings might be confronted with *gasp* a poor person!

      Quick! Back to the Northern Quarter! £4 beers and £5 cupcakes for all*!

      *Unless you’re poor.

      • Audio Silver Lining

        They might be wandering to MediaCity which, last time I checked fell well within the borders of Salford (and where a beer will probably end up costing about £4 too)

  • zombie_inc

    First I work for the company responsible for most of the #ILoveMCR social media work but this is my personal response and nothing to do with the company. Also I don’t work in the marketing team. Finally I’m from Liverpool and commute everyday so I have a different view on the whole thing.
    Now my disclaimers are all out there here are my points.

    One of your main point seems to be that the use of twitter is for ‘middle-class’, in this day and age most of Britain is middle-class, I would, as Tom say’s like to hear your definition of the classes? Also twitter was a small part of the campaign, as Facebook was the main social tool used, but also used where blog, websites and text. Then the bemoaning of the fact that other (buzz words) tools like QR codes or Augmented reality where not used. I would love to see your statistics on ‘Augmented Reality’ demographic use, if twitter is a middle-class pursuit?

    Now your other main complaint is the use of a 40 year old logo which you belittle with a 10 year old quote?
    So why use the quote, somebody with a degree in English could surly write something new? No, you used the quote because it is more then the sum of it’s parts. The quote resonates with the psych, it evokes feeling while feeling familiar. Much like the logo used.

    Also your reference to the area’s of Manchester, there was no block on any area or region taking part. It was open to everybody. So you seem to be insulting the more proactive area’s of your city. MCR stood for Manchester City Regions just as well as being short code for Manchester. Salford produced ‘I Love Salford’ material.

    Finally suggesting that an attempt to stage some sort of reconciliation on twitter would make social margins bigger is bordering on the scaremongering of a tabloid newspaper.

    Overall I think your article is pretty much lazy and ill-informed (really how could you miss the facebook stuff, the link is on 20ft high posters? Or maybe Facebook isn’t social enough for you.)

    On a separate note I would like to congratulate the team involved in the #ILoveMCR on the hard work they did in such a small measure of time.

    Also no hard feelings as it is pretty obvious that this is for SEO reason more then debating the real campaign .

    • Anonymous

      Zombie Inc, to clarify, this isnt

    • Louise Shaw

      As one of the people responsible for retweeting this, I don’t work for SEO or any marketing role. I simply thought the article hit right home to some of the issues Manchester faces and what we need to do as a region to fix it.

      From my side, it’s not a go at you, it’s a challenge to a council that spends far more time on this sort of thing than fixing some of Manchester’s deep social problems. You were commissioned for a brief, I take it, fair play – and you defend that well.

      What do we take all this energy to do tho? How do we fix huge problems in education and health?

  • Jono Casley

    “Twitter is a largely middle-class pursuit. Its very nature, largely idle thoughts on nothing, fits snugly alongside traditional definitions of middle-class living.” – I better cancel my twitter account and find a working-class alternative – as idle and nothing are not what I am about!

  • Hooj14

    “Michael left Manchester Metropolitan University in 2006 with a degree in English, and within a few months progressed to an SEO specialist role. He has forged a reputation as somebody who can write effective copy quickly and accurately.”

    Im sorry but that doesn’t make sense to me; can you write effectively? Can you copy quickly? And can you write accurately? As it doesn’t look like it.

    • Anonymous


    • Katrina

      Judging by the volume and passion of the responses – as an opinion piece, I think it’s been pretty effective.

  • Scott Pollard

    I agree that social media did help fuel the spread of rioting along with the TV coverage. Twitter isn’t just the middle classes talking about stuff. The #ILoveMCR could of had two objectives in my opinion. To quickly answer the inevitable question of ‘Well… whats being done about it?’ and using the riots to their advantage for some positive, free, publicity. For the New York campaign reference I thought it was clever and a nice bit copy. The use of it as a logo… bit lazy and unimaginative.

    There is never an excuse for rioting and looting. I saw it mainly has unruly kids who lack discipline and morals. Lets blame the parents and the dwindling strive for a better life through hard work.

    That’s my 10 pence

  • Tom Mason

    Some interesting thoughts from Mike here (and I enjoyed reading the article and it asked some interesting questions).

    I think the campaign did what it was supposed to do. There needed to be a rapid and effective marketing push in order to preserve the reputation of the city, both for residents and for tourism purposes, and, in this respect the team at MM did a fantastic job in rolling out the campaign online and across the city’s advertising billboards in a very short space of time. Let’s not forget that this probably had very little budget – what with Christmas eating away at the funds available for marketing.

    The message needed to spread quickly and Twitter and Facebook (which I don’t think Mike mentions) were the ideal platforms available. I don’t necessarily think this was a case of being unoriginal (aside from the creative), because development of anything else – whether an app or website – would have taken too long.

  • Kay Dinsdale

    I find the debates about the apparent blame given to social platforms for fueling the riots interesting. I think as marketing professionals we are giving them a little bit too much credit. Facebook and Twitter were more used to report it and discuss it I felt, rather than communicate where it was going down to other would-be rioters. After all the rioters were actually gathering before we read about it on Twitter and Facebook. As others (rebecca) pointed out, rioters have successfully organised a riot long before our ‘middle class’ (really?) social tools. Although I’d hardly call it organised rioting; mindless, spontaneous mayhem and looting springs to mind.

    What I find the most interesting here though is the unfolding debate about what class people consider themselves to be and requests for definitions. I do spy more than enough chips on shoulders to open a chippy…well perhaps 2 chippies, one for the self proclaimed middle class in the NQ and another for the proud working class in Salford.

    The Wikipedia entry is rather interesting. According to that I’m working class – GSCE education, I rent my home and don’t earn all that much – but I’m not really ar*ed about what class society thinks I am. I prefer dogs to people anyway. They don’t give a crap what you earn or ow you speak innit.

    I think the #ilovemcr campaign was a fast, decent response using appropriate tools to communicate it. It would NEVER be as big as riot communications; negative messages always spread quicker than positive ones. QRcodes? Let’s put things into perspective. I like my posters to say what they mean, I’m not going to scan it with my phone. To most people a QRCode looks like a printing error.

    Saying that I would have been impressed if the rioters had used QRcodes ;)

    Fab discussion.

  • David Edmundson-Bird

    The causes of the riots, the outcomes for the City, the actions taken by people. All of these are hotly debated and as ever it’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    What is easy is for everyone to stand back, with hindsight, and say “Could have been better/different.” To everything.

    MM had to do something, and quickly. Maybe next time (let’s hope there isn’t a next time) they might act differently. But they simply couldn’t have done nothing. But it’s fair to say that it did make a lot of people think about Manchester, and many publicly and openly responded positively to it.

    The causes of the riots – or should we say in Manchester, the causes behind a significant amount of law-breaking – are deep-rooted. We’ll have to find out why people feel that it is okay to do what they did. We’ll have to try and understand why it seemed highly organised in certain cases. What’s clear is the Social Contract broke down on that day.

    Unfortunately for the liberal-minded, it will mean visiting some things that they find uncomfortable – that there is “a” criminal element. For the hardened neo-con, it will mean that the same thing – that simply being hard on people won’t stop criminality. It’s not going to be done quickly, via Twitter or any marketing campaign. And given the current fiscal circumstances, it’s not going to happen any time soon.

  • Louise Shaw

    I took this to mean, and wrote on the copy of article over at How Do that there are deep, fundamental problems in Manchester (such as the fact only 45pc of kids get 5 GCSE’s A-C) which the council really needs to address rather than people from the council sitting on Marketing Manchester’s board and (I presume) sanctioning campaigns like this. Does anyone know who and what funds Marketing Manchester?

    Standing up for the issues in Manchester tends to gets you accused of “running down Manchester” in the places where it matters (town hall etc).

    That’s my experience and part of the slant I took from the article, that time and effort should be better spent on these issues (or at least raising awareness of them) rather than campaigns targeted at the middle classes. I love MCR, that’s why I want to improve it, and have better chances for it’s children.

  • Dave Ashworth

    In my twitter experiences I’ve seen nothing to suggest it’s not being adopted by certain classes or not and though Michael seem views his “twitterati” as middle class, the whole campaign wasn’t just on Twitter – nearly 90,000 people like the Facebook page and the numerous billboard posters around town are aimed at everyone.

    More to the point, I don’t think the campaign was meant to be a reconciliation between the “classes”, more of a display of solidarity for anyone who was opposed to the riots and rioters – whether it be by liking the FB page, adding the hash tag to a tweet or by wearing a branded t-shirt – just choose the method that suits, there’s nothing more to it than that.