Activism is the ultimate Growth Hacker

- June 30, 2014 3 MIN READ

Online petitions are dominant players in the activism space right now, they have been in existence for quite a number of years in Australia and have produced a plethora of great results at political, social, commercial and environmental levels.

There are really four major players in this space in the Australian market. Excluding charity organisations like Amnesty International they are Get Up! founded by Australian’s Jeremy Heimans, David Madden and Amanda Tattersall, Go Petition founded by Australia’s Hamish Ogilvy and five of his friends.We then have Sum of Us, which has an Australian-American dual citizen founder in Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman and then San Francisco based petition powerhouse Change.org founded by Ben Rattray.

The level of engagement these companies achieve on a daily basis have marketers everywhere salivating at the mouth. If the internet has done anything for social causes, it has been allowing Activism to become the ultimate growth hacker. The only other space that achieves such incredible rapid opt-in is social media.

This style of activism is not without criticism. The terms “slacktivist” and “clicktivism” are often used to describe those that hop on board the petition train, blasting their social networks with preachy status updates and a link for them to join the fight.

The reality is many of these people will never speak about the topic again, their active engagement ends there. However for those that do, their opt-in and short term recruitment drive represents important data that will be used to take the fight to the next level. At which time, they may be called upon to engage again, and return rates on these types of sites are high.

I would also say that new mobile applications such as Pic Away will experience a similar engagement rate due to the role it will no doubt begin to play in Activist culture.

The value of these organisations (outside of the causes) is in their database. For instance GoPetition has over 17 million members which they have gathered over the years running 65,000 petitions. The key marketing strategy to getting these type of results is polarisation.

Culturally we see the word “polarise” as a negative thing, whoever started that line of thinking was an idiot. In it’s most simple form polarisation is just the formation of two factions with opposing views on a topic. I suppose the negative connotations come from what usually happens in society when opposing views reach boiling points – hello war.

Polarisation in marketing can be a very clever tool. It creates a tribe mentality and that is where engagement comes from. Taking a very specific view of something will always attract more interest, more customers and more interaction.

For the last week I have experimented with this on my personal facebook page, more people comment, like, share and interact when I write an opinion about an issue or cause than when I write something of a general nature. When I wrote something right winged a particular set of connections engaged, when I wrote something left winged a totally different faction came out of the woodworks.

Two examples of where I have seen the same techniques used by these activist organisations in the commercial space are the businesses Strategic Anarchy and The Entourage.

This is a good comparison actually because both businesses operate in the Education, Coaching and Mentoring space. Both also have consistent track records of delivering strong results for their clients. Both operate on completely different wave lengths though – their target markets could not be further apart.

Polarisation is key to their marketing and opt-in process. Those that feel uncomfortable being in the tribe The Entourage attracts, would most probably be ideal clients for Strategic Anarchy. Both have the same “fight against the system, be an individual” mantra but one tribe does it in suits and the others in punk rock / warrior style.

Same mission, but a couple of key unique differences. Two factions – but two VERY successful businesses.

Whenever I sit down for think tanks with potential new advertisers, I always throw out bold ideas into the arena – ideas that will polarise, but will definitely get results. Most advertisers puss out which is such a shame because I know that the key to increasing click throughs and opt in’s comes from creating content with an edge.

A lot of people worry about their “brands” in the startup space and the way people will perceive them. But maybe what that is all about is not really knowing who their audience is yet. Once you do it’s not going to matter if you offend the other guys because they were never going to be customers anyway.

I think it’s time we all took a page out of the Activists handbook.