grassroots Posts

7 Key Ingredients for Online Marketing

Jocelyn at the Nonprofit Technology Blog wrote a great post on Wednesday about how to create a successful viral marketing campaign inspired by this Washington Post article

To summarize, in Dave Kori (Lake Braddock Secondary School Student) v. Dean Tistadt (Chief Operating Officer for Fairfax County, VA Public Schools), Dave Kori called Dean Tistadt at home to ask why schools had not been closed after last week’s snow storm.  Unfortunately, Dean Tistadt’s wife returned the call with a voicemail, upbrading the student for calling a home number with his complaint.  Dave, a product of iGeneration, posted the controversial message on YouTube and Facebook – initiating a viral storm.

Jocelyn commented that this story was actually an excellent case study about how to leverage the Internet and social networking to achieve advocacy goals. 

6 Key Ingredients for Online Marketing

  1. Make sure your campaign is ugent and timely.
  2. Make your “ask for support” concrete and easy to do.
  3. Speak in your own voice; in other words, be real.
  4. Send your appeal to the right audience.
  5. Use communications vehicles that can easily go viral.
  6. Diversify.

Bonus optional ingredient: Be controversial.

You can find Jocelyn’s further analysis of these steps on her blog, but as I suggested in the title of this post (and commented on her blog), I think there’s a 7th ingredient – albeit more difficult to find.  And that’s the “X Factor”.  Its unidentifiable nature leads to its allusiveness.  Sure, controversy can be the X Factor, but is that the only way?  And in the nonprofit world, is drama or controversy really the way to go

How can nonprofits break through all of the din in the online world to create something that goes viral?  Are we doing enough to make a distinction between what we hope resonates online and what actually does make an impact?  I think, in the end, it’s unfortunately an acceptance of powerlessness.  Usually the most successful viral campaigns are the result of genuine grassroots movements – and not artificial or oversaturated marketing (or astroturfing, I suppose).  People are more inclined to spread the word if they feel like they thought it was a good idea first, not if it is constantly in their faces with blinking lights, shouting from a megaphone: “I’m a good idea!  Tell your friends!”

Still, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do.  Lesson learned: create your network to the best of your ability and trust them.  When it comes to making things go viral, let your network be your guide.  You’re going to have to provide them with the ammunition and make things interesting and relevant to their lives.  But when something works, they’ll make it stick.

Are you ready for a challenge?

America’s Giving Challenge is on!

Here is the video I made a couple of nights ago with my good friend Nathan on the steps of the Capitol. Share the video, and start a fundraiser.

Thanks to for the killer soundtrack.