Digital media has made a big world seem small, allowing people from across the globe to connect in real time and around common interests. For charities and NGOs, this is a game-changer. This week’s edition of the digital literacy series examines the powerful ability digital media has for capturing the attention of the masses and inspiring them to action. For insight into this topic, I spoke with Darren Barefoot (@dbarefoot), Founding Partner of Vancouver based web-marketing agency, Capulet Communications Inc.
Along with his partner, Julie Szabo, and in partnership with Biro Creative, Barefoot has developed a Movement Marketing Program: a unique service designed for cause-based organizations and leaders ready to expand and engage an online movement.
How do you define a “movement”? What is movement marketing and what role does digital media play in it?
A movement, to our minds, is a passionate groundswell of support that empowers people to unite around a common love, cause or organization. While movements don’t have to have a moral compass – Dead Heads just want to have a good time – the ones that we’re interested in talking about do.
Movements usually exist whether or not there are organizations and companies behind them. As many companies have learned, it’s really hard to kick start a movement if there’s no appetite for one. It’s like trying to light a fire without fuel.
Fortunately, non-profit organizations have been collecting the fuel for years. The fuel is “the list”, and some organizations have been very successful in turning their list into a movement.
Whether we’re selling snow tires or stopping climate change, word of mouth is a critical aspect of communicating not only with your current “tribe” of supporters, but also for recruiting new members to your cause. That’s essentially what movement marketing is – engaging with and expanding upon that surging wave of passionate support that is your movement.
In our experience, movement building has to happen both online and off. The online actions we usually want people to take – sign a petition, add their voice to an online protest, donate – are often “gateway” activities for deeper, more prolonged offline engagement.
What unique digital needs do NGOs and charities have?
While all organizations need to communicate authentically in digital channels, it’s doubly important that NGOs do so. They’ve generally got a shorter, clearer path towards a person’s heart and head than, say, Coke or Nike. This presents an advantage, as they’ve more communications tactics they can use to reach new audiences and deepen their engagement with their base. The KONY 2012 campaign, for all its controversy, was a great example of this riskier but more authentic communications style in action.
Why should NGOs and charities be active in the digital space?
By 2012, it’s become emphatically clear that email, websites and social media are as essential to business operations as the telegram and the fax machine once were. They’re core pieces of infrastructure in how we communicate, so it’s really not an option for an NGO or charity not to be online.
What trends do you currently see happening in the digital space that could impact movement marketing?
Lately I’ve been thinking about the rise of the sharing behaviour on Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest that’s commonly called “push-button curation”. Somebody sees something they like on the Web, they click a button and share it with their networks. In one sense, it’s the laziest form of sharing we’ve seen online. You can draw a line of increasing sloth (or efficiency, if you prefer) from blogging to this kind of push-button curation. What’s next?
One highly speculative answer connects to Google’s recent announce about their augmented reality glasses. Will we have “view curation”, where everything you blink at three times gets shared?