Our Strategy in the Screw Business As Usual Challenge
If Everyone Cares first heard about Richard Branson and Virgin Unite’s Challenge to ‘Screw Business As Usual’ in November 2011, after reading Richard’s Book of the same name. At the time I was in America attending three amazing events, raising awareness for our project and ‘picking brains’ for ideas and strategies to help us achieve our goals.
The aim was to have our challenge video entry up within a week of my return. That didn’t happen as sadly my father passed away. Our entry went up in January and already there were ideas with well over a thousand votes! Which felt a bit scary.
IEC set about creating a sustainable – 17 week – strategy, for raising awareness, support and votes, based on our existing reach. We already had an established website, active facebook page (5k+ followers) and dedicated twitter community (4.5K+ followers) – along with my personal facebook page (5k+), Twitter (9k+) & global contacts.
Before I tell you about our FB and Twitter ‘Marketing’ Strategy I would like to share some of the other things we did during the challenge. If Everyone Cares was featured in guest blogs, an online magazine, a video interview, online radio interviews and our own IEC blog. Our entry was also featured in newsletters and one amazing lady even asked me to create a mini ‘flyer’ that she then printed, cut and handed out at a large networking event (6k attendees over 2 days). She rang me each evening to ask how voting had gone during that day and told me that people had actually stood there with their smart phones and voted there and then! Another lady was doing some talks at events in the UK and she did the same with the flyers. The support and love that we have felt has been amazing and heart warming.
Back to our FB and Twitter Strategy ~
Facebook was our first port of call, along with active tweeting. Sadly we soon discovered that facebook had changed some of it’s settings – it was no longer possible to personally connect/message the followers of our page! That meant all we were able to do on our actual If Everyone Cares page was post about the challenge, hope it ended up in news feeds and that it was then clicked! This was our first ‘knock’.
I don’t believe in ‘spamming’ people – heck this challenge is about doing business differently. So I created an email to send to each of my personal facebook friends. In it I told them about the project and the challenge. I asked them if they would consider taking just 5 minutes to watch our video – then, if they liked our goals would they please vote for us. Each email was personalised. I started with people who had supported a blog I had written for the Brian Tracy Guest Blogger competition in 2011, and then expanded from there. I sent about 75-100 emails a day and the response was phenomenal! Over the first few weeks our votes climbed steadily on a daily basis. What was amazing was that on the 15th Feb, just one month after our entry went live, we passed the 2k facebook vote mark! At that point I had only sent out about 1600-1800 messages! What was even more amazing was that during that time I had only received 2 negative responses from people thinking they had been ‘spammed’! yet at the same time had received hundreds of messages of support – ‘go for it’, ‘love it’, etc. We were on a high!
Everything was going well – until a week or so later … BAM … the bubble burst. Facebook was obviously not happy that I was sending so many messages! It had to stop! Facebook introduced a security ‘captcha’ thing! and for every message, post on my page(s) etc I had to fill in the ‘captcha’ box! Being dyslexic that was a nightmare! I realised that this was a serious warning that my account could be suspended. As that could not happen the only option was to stop sending the messages. I have to admit I was ‘gutted’.
Time for a new strategy – but what? At the same time as ‘running’ our facebook strategy I had started messaging the people who followed us on twitter – I didn’t really know twitter that well (I have learnt a lot more over the last few months!) I would put the @ sign and their name followed by a simple message with the link. Quite quickly we discovered that by doing that it actually ended up counting as a vote!! I stopped and messaged Virgin Unite immediately as we did not want to break any rules. Apparently we weren’t – yet we chose not to start that method again as it just didn’t feel ethical!
During the month of sending the facebook emails we had received quite a few messages from people who did not have a twitter account – but would have tweeted if they had. At the same time we became aware that some entrants were possibly buying some of their votes! It is rare for me to be negative or judgemental, however this seemed totally out of alignment with the spirit of the challenge.
We sat down and worked out the size of our genuine followers list (adding my personal and If Everyone Cares) it exceeded 26k – taking some off for duplication and then adding some on for the fact that people could tweet more than once and re-tweet. We came to a figure that we would not go over with our tweets. Also some of our dedicated followers had approached us asking how they could help – so they were posting on their fb pages and tweeting/re-tweeting for us as well. (We created a webpage with a simple guide for tweeting and re-tweeting – click here to view)
Going back to the fact that so many people had let us know that they didn’t have Twitter accounts, yet would have Tweeted had they had an account, it was at this point that I, and I take full responsibility for this action, opened five new twitter accounts. The only tweets that were made from these accounts were comments that were being made to us by people who didn’t have accounts – yet said they would have tweeted. I also ‘re-tweeted’ from these accounts and built up genuine followers at the same time. I’d also like to tell you about one amazing Lady who rang me. She had an existing twitter account that she had not used for over a year. She gave me her password and requested that I tweeted on her behalf!
One massive lesson that we learnt from the whole challenge, our experiences with facebook and twitter – was the importance of growing our very own mailing list. We have one – but until this experience had not fully understood the real importance of it – as Julia Roberts said in the film Pretty Woman “Big Mistake – Huge Mistake!” – Lesson Learned.
IEC was never interested in getting to the number one position in the voting process. The point was to be in the Top 10 so that our idea would be considered by the judging panel – That was our goal from day one.
Due to the fact that voting within the last three weeks of the challenge seemed to be going crazy, we called a team meeting. It looked as though more than one entry in the Top 10 was utilising the strategy of ‘purchasing votes’. To us it appeared that it was becoming like a virus. There was nothing about it in the rules – so no one was breaking them. It just did not sit well with us and our values. Anyway let’s be honest the fact that I had started the five twitter accounts could be put in the same bracket! So who am I to say anything about it? At that meeting we made a decision to contact some of our most active supporters to ask for their help. The main way was to utilise twitter and the re-tweet function. We set in place a strategy for the last three days. Our fear was that others could be planning something similar and at the very end IEC could be knocked out of the challenge. It was a matter of being prepared. None of this sat well with me – yet someone kindly pointed out to me that this was not about me – it was about the peoples lives that could and would be improved by the Interactive Global Community Map! Point taken – I needed to get over myself! Yet I was adamant that our strategy had to be instigated by real people and that our accounts were set up on behalf of real people’s comments and feedback. So that is what we did.
One thing that saddens me about any challenge like this is that there have there have to be winners and losers. However this challenge can only create winners. It has helped, not only IEC, but many others to expand the reach of their ideas, projects and companies. Each of whom are bringing more meaning to peoples lives and helping to change the world for the better at the same time.
As a final note If Everyone Cares would like to say a Huge Thank You to Richard Branson, Virgin Unite, and everyone who has supported us over the last months. Also to the other entrants, if your idea has a link-in with ours – please get in contact – as perhaps in the future we can find a way to mutually support each other.
and the If Everyone Cares Team