You may wonder how it happens. A product or service receives viral attention and notoriety seemingly overnight. It’s the holy grail of marketing and the dream of every organization with a message to spread and no budget for advertising. Grassroots movements, products, and communities build on four critical elements.
Does it have value? Value is the raw material of any grassroots movement – the seed. That’s not to say that the product, program or service at the core of your grassroots movement has value to everyone, but it does have enough value to enough to your audience that those people seek it out. In other words, it has a market. Since value is subjective, you may not fully understand it and you may need the help of Break The Web – San Diego. But if you can see an active core value of something, it may be the seed of grassroots marketing.
For example, if you’ve never had a dog, you might be astounded when dog owners say things like, “My dog is just like a child to me.” But did you know that the bond between a human and a dog is reinforced with the same biological chemicals that connect human mothers to their babies? When you understand that deep value to dog owners, you know that those owners value programs, products and services that help them and their dogs live long, happy lives together.
Are people passionate about it? Passion is the kinetic energy of your movement – it’s chlorophyll and the sunshine. If the heart of what you’re doing has value nailed, passion can be easy. But it’s a separate and critical element that grows out of value. Passion is the emotional response to value. It’s the adoration, excitement, anger, and frustration that motivate us to act on what we value.
If you calmly understand the value of something, nothing will happen. But if you are so excited about the value that you want to talk about it with people, put it in people’s hands and hear what others have to say about it, then you have this critical element of a grassroots movement. Hundreds of passion-driven nonprofit organizations support awareness for particular dog breed lovers, fight animal abuse and support research for the well-being of dogs. And if you’ve ever been involved with a nonprofit, you know it’s hard work for no money, but it puts passion for its perfect use.
Do people know what you want them to do? A blade of grass knows what to do with chlorophyll and the sunshine. Your members should be aware how to take action in that same natural way. It may be as simple as buying an item or as complex as building a multi-million dollar business. But whatever the action, it should be clear. And the greater the level of work you require from a member, the higher level of support and tools you’ll need to provide. Some members may simply spread awareness with a “Like” on Facebook or a “Follow” on Twitter. Others may require a social network enabled the website to organize and lead smaller groups. When you make an effective action for your members easy with clear goals and great tools, you grease the rails of communication and enable quick growth.
An example of a simple action on Facebook is the modern generated surveys like “What dog breed are you?” Sounds silly? Maybe. But offering fun is a great strategy to drive action. Our survey can subtly, but effectively build awareness about breed characteristics that will help potential owners find dogs that are compatible with their homes and families, thereby reducing abandonment and abuse caused by pet-owner mismatches.
Growing the Network
A network of people is the soil in which your grassroots movement will grow. You’ll find fertile ground for grassroots movements anywhere you find individuals who value your idea, are responding to it emotionally and know what to do about it. With the internet, finding and connecting with that network is easier, but competition for the heart and mind “space” of people has grown exponentially, so your first encounter has to work. They need to know how to join, and you have to make it easy to do it. Potential members of our dog-lovers network are each member of a dog-owning household (40% of American households), government agencies, existing non-profits, pet service and supply retailers, veterinary organizations and schools. These are all individuals and groups that value dogs, are inherently passionate about animals, and can act on behalf of a grassroots movement.
Not every network is fertile! Organizations, companies, and communities can go very negative, and when that happens, grassroots programs can die out quickly or grow at a stunted pace. This is where leadership is critical. Great leadership acknowledges and solves problems (weeds), but keeps the network focused and excited about its mission (feeds). Enabling and building strong, focused network leaders throughout the movement will speed growth.
Beyond these four critical elements, the way you spread the word is up to you, but if you have these, you might just have the raw materials for a grassroots movement.