How Diabetes UK’s #135shoes campaign became front page news in a week
More than 135 people with diabetes undergo amputations every week. With a little help from social media, Diabetes UK brought the issue to the attention of the public and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in just six days.
When Diabetes UK discovered that more than 135 people in the UK were undergoing toe, foot or leg amputations every week due to diabetes-related complications, and that 80 per cent of those amputations could have been prevented, they knew they had to do something about it, and fast.
With a little help from social media, the charity achieved its goal of bringing the issue to the attention of the public and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in just under a week.
To spread the word, Diabetes UK turned to Thunderclap, a “crowdspeaking” platform that allows single online posts to be shared on a wider scale, and “amplify the message” above the noise of social media.
The charity started its campaign first thing on Thursday, July 9, tweeting a link to its Thunderclap page at with the message:
— Diabetes UK (@DiabetesUK) July 9, 2015
Those who registered their support on Thunderclap automatically reposted the message on their choice of social media, further spreading the #135shoes hashtag, and introducing an exponentially growing number of people to the cause.
The hashtag not only organised the social media activity – it also formed the basis of a striking visual display. The campaign reached its climax last Wednesday, June 15, when the charity scattered 135 single shoes on a patch of grass outside the House of Commons in an installation that starkly illustrated the scale of the problem.
— Diabetes UK (@DiabetesUK) July 15, 2015
Charity supporters and those living with diabetes, as well as some famous names donated the shoes. Each shoe had a personal message attached about how its donor had been affected by the disease.
Among those who donated their footwear was former Tottenham player Gary Mabbutt, who earlier this year had an operation to remove an artery in his leg that was clogged due to complications associated with diabetes. The operation saved his leg. “I shudder when I think how close I came to losing a leg for good,” his message read.
Vikings actor George Blagden, who shared the Thunderclap message with his 46,000-strong Twitter following, posted a video of his visit to the installation with the message “please donate and spread the word”.
By Wednesday morning, Diabetes UK had gained 322 supporters on its Thunderclap campaign, whose social media reach, or the sum total of their friends and followers, totalled more than 300,000 people.
On the same day, Diabetes UK’s campaign was headline news for the Daily Mirror:
— Richard Evans (@RichardJaEvans) July 14, 2015
The story rippled through the news sites, with The Telegraph, ITV, The Northern Echo and LBC all reporting on the cause.
Diabetes UK’s story shows that if you use a smart social media strategy to push your real world awareness campaign, you can make a lot happen in a week.