Monday, December 6, 2010

A guerilla sipping hot chocolate

This drumming up votes for my Blog Your Way Around the World essay got me thinking about the whole social networking phenomenon. And I decided to try as many different things that I could think of to see how they worked.

Facebook. I’m rolling it out to my friends in waves and some of them are sharing the link on their walls. Not many reports back about friends of friends voting, so I can’t say how successful that’s been yet. Finding an organized way of gathering data is one of the aspects I’m still working out.

Email. As with Facebook I’m contacting people in waves. Or whenever I mention it to someone who offers to pass the word. I’ve also added the plea as the signature on my outgoing emails.

Twitter. Yup, I've started using really short sentences. @sams_stuff

Other online efforts. I’m looking for friends and other contacts who send out email newsletters or other bulk emails to get mentioned in their communications. So far I have enlisted one friend, a comedian, to add me to his next missive. I’m hoping that the people who are likely to be on a comedian’s email list are of the happy sort, and that happy people will be willing to vote for my essay.

Flyers and other paper. My books on sale around Ipswich now have slips of paper inserted into each one describing the contest and asking for support. I’ve also started hanging flyers around town with the info and the request that people “Help a Writer Run Away from Home.”

Face-to-face. Just shy of a hand-squeezing, baby-kissing sort of campaigning that started today. I am typing this in the Starbucks in Newburyport as I sip a hot chocolate and listen to the Salvation Army bell ringer’s jingling from outside. My laptop bears the sign “Help a Writer Run Away from Home—go ahead, ask me.”

Results of the onsite effort were mixed. It will be interesting to see if the atmosphere and inhabitants differ from place to place. When I settled in, three other people were typing away on their laptops and seemed intent on their work. I noticed several other people reading the sign as they past, but they didn’t say anything, and I couldn’t manage to make eye contact with any of them to encourage an encounter.

By the end of my time there (about two hours) I had made three contacts, which may result in two votes. (If I were ridiculously optimistic, I might imagine those two passing the link along to other willing voters, but let’s not get carried away here.)

The first contact was completely unexpected. A man came in, looked at the sign on his way by, and then went on to get his coffee. A few minutes later he reappeared with his coffee and stopped by my table. “Where are you hoping to go?” he asked. “All sorts of places,” I answered and started to swing my screen around to show him the contest page. He dropped a five-dollar bill on the table. “Good luck.” And he started away. “I’m not after money,” I started to explain, but he interrupted. “Then buy yourself a cup of coffee.” He smiled and was gone.

I sat for a few minutes and wondered if I should change the wording on my “Help a Writer Run Away from Home” sign. Did it sound like panhandling?

A little while later a man wearing earbuds who had been sitting in a corner armchair got up to leave and stopped near me. “Are you writing?”

He meant right at that moment in a place that he considered too noisy and busy for concentration. I told him I was editing a short story. Then I explained the sign and mentioned a few of the trips—Africa, Galapagos Islands, Borneo.

“There are cannibals in Borneo,” he said.

“Then I guess I’ll have something exciting to write about.”

He didn’t make any move toward my computer when I indicated he use it, so I took out one of my informational slips and handed it to him.

“I’m going to vote for you,” he assured me. Then he wished me luck and nodded good-bye.

A short time later a woman sat down at the table next to me and fired up her laptop. After a few minutes she turned and asked if I knew enough about computers to help her troubleshoot a problem. We figured it out, she thanked me, and then I asked if she’d be willing to do me a favor, then told her about the contest and gave her the info. She went to the website and cast her vote. Then we chatted about our work—she explained relationship marketing to me—and exchanged cards. I also told her about the guy who had given me the five dollars, and she said when something like that happens one should just say “thank you” and show that you’re open to accepting abundance.

Thank you to everyone who has voted so far and everyone who will between now and December 31.

I also believe in passing on abundance. The Salvation Army bell ringer was gone when I left the Starbucks, but I stopped at the supermarket on my way home and saw two teenaged girls with another Salvation Army kettle. They were singing Christmas carols. I gave them the five dollars.

1 comment:

  1. It was easy to vote and it gave me a chance to read your essay. Good luck. And I'm totally interested in your social media campaign to get the votes.