I recently found myself in the middle of a sociological experiment. And I'm thrilled it turned out to be an actual empirical experiment, complete with controls, data collection, and results. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Because I can't divulge the details, I'll explain what happened like this: I promised to help a company get votes. This has actually happened to me a few times in the past year. Social media presence is becoming more and more prevalent in our work environments.
If you spend any amount of time online, you've probably also seen ads asking you to vote for an emerging small business trying to win BIG money from any number of business grants. These contests are neat ideas; they have launched some super awesome businesses (as well as some less than stellar ones).
But getting people to vote for a company is not easy. I knew it wouldn't be, but I also had no idea just how hard it would turn out to be. I quickly made my way through all the people I know personally and individually asked every single one of them vote (as many times as possible). And they did. I am honored to call these people my friends. Hundreds of people stepped up to the plate simply because I asked them too. Incredible, yes, but unfortunately not good enough. So next, I tweeted about the vote. I posted it on LinkedIn (and made ALL of these posts public). Yes, I even used Google+, which I'm honestly still not sure how to use.
Then the company searching for votes decided to put some money into the project. It paid Facebook to sponsor the vote getting posts. This means Facebook will put the post on the walls of your friends' friends. Supposedly over 1500 people saw our ads on their Facebook walls. How many votes do you think this got us? I bet you can venture an educated guess.
At the end of a long vote getting day my boyfriend saw me struggling. I had exhausted every personal relationship I had. Who else could I turn to? I'd have to rely on the virtual kindness of strangers. But I kept circling back to the why; why would an online stranger help our company? The truth is, he or she won't.
So that led me right back to reality. To real people. And then my boyfriend came up with one hell of a "get the vote out" campaign. After giving me his own long-winded explanation of human behavior, his point was that he thoroughly believed a quid pro quo campaign was where we'd get those final votes to come in. So we decided to give his plan a try; we'd offer something back to actual complete strangers.
So first I baked cookies. Then I went out in public and asked people to vote. At the same time (or usually after speaking with a passersby) I was handing out cookies to anyone who wanted one.
I had NO idea if this plan would work. Or if I would get thrown out of the park. Or possibly even arrested. Would strangers actually accept a cookie baked in a total stranger's home? Perhaps I should have brought store bought cookies instead. In the end, I ended up baking snickerdoodle and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I made a sign. I generated a QR code. I made stickers. And I placed each cookie in an individual cupcake holder (Costco sample style). I had a stack of napkins. I was going to give it a shot.
In the end, we spent $15 promoting the competition on social media sites.
Conveniently, I also spent $15 buying the raw ingredients to bake the cookies.
Thus, I found myself facing an equal opportunity investment plan with differing strategies. Lining up the digital world vs the real world, which one do you think came out ahead with procuring votes for an unknown company?
According to The Fundraising Manager, "relationships matter." And never have I realized just how much they do matter until I had to reach out to every personal relationship I have.
How did the marketing fare? By the numbers, the promotion of the site to 1500 strangers led to zero votes. Yep, no additional votes.
Standing on the street for 4 hours led to 20 votes. Yes, 20 votes! It doesn't seem like a lot (I got hundreds by asking people I knew), but when you're looking at the amount of votes received by unknown persons, a human interaction makes a difference.
So there you have it. Go out and bug somebody. They might just listen to you. And if you're lucky, they'll even cast a vote for you. Don't sit at home sending generic requests out into cyberspace. Unless you want to have exactly no more friends than you did before you started.
This Forbes article is so helpful! Here's why asking for votes while handing out free cookies is more effective than just asking. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/03/27/5-reasons-why-your-social-media-campaign-isnt-working/