Canada's January 12 launch of the International Year of Co-operatives did more than just bring together co-operators in 14 cities across Canada: it also marked a high point for the Canadian co-operative movement's use of social media.
The live half-hour webcast from Ottawa, which featured such well-known co-op leaders as Kathy Bardswick of The Co-operators and Monique Leroux of Desjardins, proved so popular that Canada's IYC website, www.canada2012.coop went down temporarily because, to quote the company hosting the site, "there were too many connections."
What was equally unexpected was the success of the Twitter campaign around the launch. Canada's two national co-operative associations, the Canadian Co-operative Association and the Conseil canadien de la coopération et de la mutualité, had created the hashtag #coop12jan to distinguish tweets relating to the launch events. A "tweetvite" was sent to co-operators across the country a few days before the launch, and messages encouraging people to tweet their events were repeatedly posted on both Twitter and Facebook.
The end result? Dozens, if not hundreds of tweets. Too many tweets to count. So many tweets that for a brief moment during the webcast, #coop12jan appeared as one of the top hashtags in Canada on http://trendsmap.com/.
In a country where the population of 34 million is spread out over nearly 10 million square kilometres, where winter weather often hinders travel and where co-ops can be found in the most remote communities, the launch was a wonderful example of the power of social media to bring people together. It was a spectacular start to what promises to be a very exciting year.