Thursday, 14 January 2010

Motivate Me!

It's pretty tough to get people motivated enough to actually do something these days.

We are dealing with increasingly savvy audiences, with more options, and less time to commit significant effort, to actively contribute to good causes.

Good online/offline campaigns rely on strong organizing, clear message, and recognizable outcomes. In addition, a successful campaign needs an inspirational way to motivate people to participate and engage. So how do we begin this process?

We know that community generated activity builds stronger bonds with a brand or campaign - having a hand in the creation of something makes people more likely to invest in its ongoing success. A community of actively engaged individuals are also much more likely to participate in collaborative myth creation, spread your message by word of mouth, and act as ambassadors, or brand evangelists.

How do we get peoples attention and motivate them to actively do something to participate in a good cause?

The following is a handful of ways commonly used to motivate us to engage with campaigns:

Boo! Arrgh! Use fear to scare people into action
Fear is often used to motivate engagement - particularly around issues of safety, health and your responsibilities to your loved ones.

Nice Booty Reward and incentivize through prizes or material gain
Pay to engage - prizes don't necessarily have to be cash value - they can be things that your target audience will value.

Game On Encourage competition
Engage that latent competitive drive: award points, challenge people to compete for a high score.
Chore Wars is a great example of using a points system to get people more engaged in doing unappealing household chores. (I have long envisioned a challenge that pits homes/dorms/companies monitoring their energy consumption against each other in a game of conservation. Anyone want to build it with me??)

Stroke that Ego Spotlight talent and reward effort with praise and profile
We all like to get praised. And increasingly, online recognition can be turned into power and opportunity. If members of your community are participating for recognition, make sure there are good opportunities for them to build profile and portfolio.

Fun is Good(!) Make it more fun to do good stuff
Why not helping people feel good about doing good. It is important to be respectful of sensitive issues, but it is also important to let people enjoy themselves.

A great example of fun at work is RockCorps - a day of service working for a good cause, performed with friends, that earns you a concert ticket to an exclusive show. This is a winning model for engagement - By giving young people a way to feel like they are doing a good deed by hanging out with friends, and get rewarded for a day of service. The new initiative from Disney - Give Day Get a Disney Day - follows a similar model.

Power Hungry Offer opportunities to lead and organize
A recent McKinsey Quarterly survey has found that as companies tighten their belts and reduce fiscal rewards, employees can be motivated, sometime more effectively, by offering greater leadership opportunities, praise and direct attention. In online and offline organizing, the opportunity to lead a house party, or run a local event can be a great motivator.

We're all Dumb and Lazy Make the default option the best one
Make the lazy option the best option.
Nudge highlights the little things we can do to change peoples behavior for the better. Instead of asking people to decide to opt IN, make your preferred option a decision to opt OUT and watch how many more people commit.

In Sympathy Put your audience in the shoes of those in need
Build empathy with your audience, tell emotional stories that people can relate to.

The Velvet Rope Get a glimpse behind the curtain
Nothing builds demand like limited supply. Exclusivity, VIP, invite only. Does anyone still need a Google Wave invitation?

Edutainment Teach through storytelling
Participant Media is a production company that makes great movies. Most people know them for their multi award winning films like the Soloist or the Kite Runner. Less people are aware of the huge social undertakings that go on behind the scenes of every film. Each one of their films becomes a vehicle to educate and engage the broader cinema going public in a range of issues explored through their stories. Eg. The Soloist launched a mental healthcampaign. By using popular cinema to tell well crafted and engaging stories, they are able to educate a broader audience of engaged individuals.

We're all in This Together Feel part of something bigger than yourself
Provide ways for people to collaborate and own a little piece of a bigger whole. Initiatives like
seti or carrot mob rely on people working together to create something as a community. When there is a shared sense of ownership and responsibility for success - be it a community like The High Line, open source software, or a collaborative story - we rely on each others singular strengths to support the cohesion of the whole.

Good campaigning, advertising and engagement will use a combination of these techniques to entice, incentivize and engage people to participate.

Obviously, the core of a good social media campaign is based in a deep understanding and affinity with the issues at hand, the message, and the action required. Knowing the issue, the message, and the actionable ask will determine the most appropriate way to engage an audience to participate.

What other techniques are used to engage people in issues?
What are some other good examples of campaigns that use a combination of these techniques?

Originally published on on December 03 2009

Entertainment & Engagement Part 2: Choose your own adventures

Imagine a story, told in 6 different languages , from a myriad perspectives, that you personally have a hand in shaping and creating. Imagine collaborating with hundreds of people in countries all over the world to decipher a codex that ultimately reveals the location of lost artifacts physically located in cities around the world. Imagine building a network of explorers to visit these sites to unearth these objects. Imagine discovering the rules to a lost sport. Imagine teams of people all over the world learning these rules and training for months, participating in time trails and ultimately competing simultaneously around the world in a new Olympic sport.

Imagine following all this on blogs, youtube, twitter, facebook. Imagine communicating with the main characters – writing them emails, sending them video, and having them respond, having your contribution to the puzzle recognized and valued by your peers and becoming an active member of this community of adventurers and new athletes.

P.S. This is the future of our entertainment. And the future is here.

The scenario above describes some of the activities performed by the community that participated in 2008’s The Lost Ring. The Lost Ring was a trans-media production or Alternate Reality Game (ARG) jointly sponsored by McDonalds and the 2008 Olympics.

In a few short years we have amassed the skills and hardware to become an active audience of trans-media producers. We have been trained to vote for the outcome of reality TV shows, are enabled by an array of personal media production and editing equipment, and have enough everyday online interaction to play over a variety of platforms. As a result, we now have the ability and desire to fully participate in our entertainment and shape its outcome through our own personal contributions

Events like The Lost Ring encourage participants to become active agents in the outcomes of their entertainment. Participants become deeply engaged with the story, and empowered to go out and explore, create, and evangelize.

To date, many of these trans-media productions have been created with clear civic motivations. One of the best known “future modeling” ARG’s is World Without Oil (WWO). It was created in 2007 by Ken Ekland with Jane McGonnigal (also creator of The Lost Ring). WWO challenged participants to augment their own lives in response to a fictional oil crisis and document the process. Part game, part user created survival manual, WWO has become the benchmark for community building using interactive storytelling. A layered mash-up of technology and DIY, the community produced an array of blogged, video and photographic content to personally engage with an entertaining fiction, and collaboratively brainstorm solutions to a very real crisis.

Working to build and engage active and participatory communities in important civic issues, I believe there is much to be learnt from and shared with trans-media entertainment.

Both require agile and responsive organizers with a clear vision and strategy and great skill for facilitation and direction. Both require building relationships of trust and responsibility, of fostering and encouraging curiosity, innovation, and creativity. Both require the sustenance of a public and collaborative narrative - audience and producer working together to build, sustain and extend a story that merges and overlaps with our everyday in a multitude of ways.

To keep citizens motivated to get and stay engaged in a civic society, we need to be ever cleverer, enthusiastic, entertaining and convincing. Gaming metric and collaborative storytelling taps into some basic part of us that is competitive and imaginative and childlike.

Audience created collaborative fiction builds an emotional connection with the audience that better facilitates action and mobilization. It allows us to build a more trusting community who, having co-authored the story, will allow themselves to be guided through it. As a new political consciousness takes shape in and around popular culture, and we master to the tools to write our own narrative, we will truly be choosing our own adventures.

Some other great trans-media productions:

WeTellStories is a fantastic 2007 project developed in collaboration with UK based sixtostart and Penguin Books. Working with up and coming Penguin authors, sixtostart developed 6 stories into web based interactive adventures. Using existing and familiar platforms like blogs and Google maps, the collaborations have opened up new possibilities in storytelling platforms. My pick of the bunch is the exquisitely executed The 21 Steps by Charles Cumming - A murder mystery translated into a cross London chase over Googlemaps.

SixtoStart are currently producing an awesome new transmedia game to teach young people about privacy issues in social media: is getting rave reviews. Check it out.

Why So Serious: Multi-Award winning ARG Why So Serious was used to launch the Dark Night in 2008.

Personal Effects: Dark Arts A recent novel by JC Hutchins – Personal Effects: Dark Arts – combines the traditions of a paperback with the gameplay of an ARG - allowing the reader to enter the world of the story through interactive elements.

Yellow Arrow gives the personal storytelling element a 2.0 perspective. In their words: “ Yellow Arrow is a global public art project of local experiences. Combining stickers, mobile phones and an international community, Yellow Arrow transforms the urban landscape into a "deep map" that expresses the personal histories and hidden secrets that live within our everyday spaces”. Begun in New York in 2004 Yellow Arrow has grown to over 35 countries and 380 cities around the world.

Originally published at on September 25 2009

Entertainment & Engagement Part 1: Reality TV

Has voting for reality TV, trained us to vote in reality?

Have reality TV shows like Big Brother or American Idol - which challenge the audience to vote to determine the outcome of their entertainment - trained a generation of Americans to get to the polls and become more engaged citizens? Are shows like Big Brother responsible for the highest American youth voter turnout since 1972?

* Youth Turnout Rate Rises to at Least 52% with 23 Million Voters Under 30
* 3.4 Million More Young People Vote than in 2004
* Young Voters Account for at Least 60% of Overall Increase
* 18% of All Voters Were Young

From CIRCLE – The Centre for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement

According to a 2001 survey of over 2000 Americans (aged 8 to 54): "The No. 1 reason people watch (reality TV) is the thrill of "guessing who will win or be eliminated from the show." That thrill is the reason cited by 69 percent of all reality TV watchers, and 84 percent of regular viewers, who make a point to watch. The second and third most common reasons viewers tune in are to "see people face challenging situations" and "imagining how I would perform in similar situations," stated by 63 percent and 42 percent of all viewers, respectively.

It is easy to see how these motivations for engaging with entertainment could be transferred to the political landscape.

Lets take last years election as example. With larger than life villains and heroes, a classical “sword from a stone” story arc, celebrity cameos, unlimited interactive trans-media, and MC’d nightly by Colbert, Stewart, and Fey, the election of Obama played out like a blockbuster series of American Political Idol.

Obama was able to build an engaging and relatable brand that people really cared about, his message of HOPE was able to become a generic vessel for peoples aspirations and he became a symbol for people apply their own beliefs to. Like many reality show contestants, he started out as just a regular guy, he let people imagine how they would perform in his situation.

We have now been exposed to about 10 years of reality TV. As a society we understand the format and what is expected of us as an audience. Audience responses demonstrate a sophisticated approach to what they are seeing that has been honed over long periods.

In a 2001 study of Big Brother fans, Jones writes: The fact that audiences apply a sliding scale of factuality to reality programs suggests one of the ways they have learned to live with this genre over the past decade. Audiences watch popular factual television with a critical eye, judging the degree of factuality in each reality format based on their experience of other types of factual programming. In this sense, viewers are evaluators of the reality genre, and of factual programming as a whole.

As savvy evaluators of our media, we are now versed to demand certain things from our entertainment. One of those things is the ability to participate in the outcome of events.

In 2005, the Super Girls phenomenon hit mainland China. Super Girls is a pop star making program modeled on the Idol franchise where contestants sing and are voted off by the audience. The final episode of the 2005 season was one of the most popular shows in Chinese broadcast history, drawing over 400 million viewers.

One of the main factors contributing to the show's popularity was that viewers are able to participate in the judging process by sending text messages with their mobile phones to vote for their favorite contestants. During the 2005 regional contest in Chengdu alone, 307,071 message votes were cast for the top three contestants…This was considered as one of the largest "democratic" voting exercises in mainland China.

Audience participation has been cited as the most crucial factor in its success. As winners were determined by cellphone short messaging votes... the show "blazed a trail for cultural democracy," said Zhu Dake, a renowned critic of cultural matters. "It's like a gigantic game that has swept so many people into a euphoria of voting and selecting, which is testament of a society opening up," Zhu argued… An even more noteworthy thing is that the Super Girls have stimulated the will to participate.

Politics as entertainment has the potential to both open doors to engagement and also trivialize important and serious issues. The key driver I see for encouraging a blend lies in the comment above – Stimulating the will to participate. If politics can act as entertainment, and the audience is taught to engage with their entertainment in a meaningful and critical manner, then people will learn the tools to increasingly engage in the debate, in the creation, and in the management of their society.

As we move towards increasingly interactive and pervasive entertainment, and audiences progressively demand the ability to influence and author the outcomes of events, it seems inevitable that we will learn to become more socially engaged in our communities.

This was originally published over on on September 21 2009.