Thursday, March 1, 2012

Peer-to-Peer Recruitment Via Sub-Communities

The most cost-effective way to build an online movement is through peer-to-peer recruitment.  The key challenge is to give supporters both an incentive to reach out to others and an effective method for enlisting their sympathetic friends. People are more likely to recruit their friends—and friends are more likely to accept—if the cause seems specific to an identity they share.

Let’s take the case of a national advocacy organization: “Americans Against Domestic Violence.” Building the constituency could be greatly accelerated by creating informal sub-communities of supporters based on a more specific identity.  For example, since I grew up in Oklahoma, I would probably have more success inviting my high school buddies to connect with “Oklahomans Against Domestic Violence” than recruiting them to join the national organization. And those who accepted the Oklahoma connection would be much more likely to spread the word to their fellow Oklahomans. 

Continuing with the geographic identity example, once the initial states had been selected, Americans Against Domestic Violence (AADV) could create a Facebook page and online petition site for each state, co-branded with AADV and the state-specific name.  Each site would offer members a chance to pledge support for AADV’s goals and to recruit their fellow community members to the cause.  AADV could email (and direct mail) its current list in each state to ask supporters to become the charter members for their community and to reach out to people within their state.

Although the recruitment would be state-focused, the goal would be to collect email addresses that could be used for general AADV communication and fundraising. AADV could also post general messages and campaigns on each state-specific Facebook page.  In addition, certain volunteers in each state could be given administrative power to post state-specific content relevant to their own communities.  

This state-specific strategy offers a great opportunity to concentrate movement-building efforts on those states that are key to passing AADV legislation.  Even Congressional districts can be targeted via Facebook ads.        
Many people would be motivated to sign up, because taking a stand as, for example, an “Oklahoman Against Domestic Violence” is a powerful way to show pride in the state. A sense of competition can be developed between the states—for example by pointing out that the number of supporters of the Texas fan page has just surpassed Oklahoma’s.  The use of Google maps to show the locations of supporters in each state could provide further incentive to join. It could be especially effective to display AADV
supporters alongside domestic violence crime locations on the same map. 

While geographic communities offer certain distinct advantages identified above, it would also be wise to test communities based on other aspects of identity, such as colleges (students or alumni), professional sports team affiliations, careers, or employers. All of these examples leverage bonds of shared community and opportunities to express pride in one’s group.  Because people are more likely to accept an invitation to join an informal community based on shared identity, this approach encourages effective peer-to-peer recruitment and should result in the rapid growth of an organization’s supporters. 
S.F 49er Fans Against Domestic Violence?  Willing to join?

1 comment:

Rosemary Howley said...

Haney, I think your model applies to all kinds of activism - both online and the old-fashioned kind. In a sense, you are talking about networks of affinity groups. Having the mutual support of a group of like-minded people that you know or with whom you identify gives you a solid base to reach out to others.

For it to work online, you need to somehow maintain the feeling of personal connection even as you expand your reach, so that your e-mail message is not ignored or deleted as just one more of many appeals.