Thursday, December 9, 2010

Interest to action

Political campaigns, sales campaigns, publicity campaigns all wrestle with the same conundrum: how to convert interest into action.

My campaign to win the opportunity to blog my way around the world is a simple one. No complicated issue to explain, no negative effects for anyone who gets involved. A few clicks on a keyboard to cast a vote. But even so it’s a huge challenge.

Yes, my friends and family are interested in my wanting to travel the world and write about it. (Some of them will even be traveling with me should I win.) But even the people who know and like me have plenty of other things in their lives competing for their time and attention. Even with the people who know and like me best I have to do the dance, give them the pitch multiple times—and risk annoying them.

(I realize I am often inadvertently annoying, but I don’t like the idea of being annoying on purpose.)

The reality is that so far only a fraction of my friends on Facebook have voted. So perhaps I haven’t sparked their interest yet or even gotten their attention—it is a busy time of year. Which means I have work to do there. And not until I do that can I hope to turn that interest into action on their part.

The second level of challenge for me is to fire up my friends to help stir up interest among the people they know. That means converting interest to action on the part of people who don’t know me.

This is where I start to wonder about the whole social networking thing. It can work if (and this is a BIG if) there is a lot of good will on the part of my friends and their contacts. Because, let’s face it, at this point my friends take on the task of getting the word out there, and there isn’t even anything in it for most of them.

Their efforts are based solely on their interest. But for some that’s enough of an incentive. As one travel-phobic friend said when I told her about the adventure trips, “I don’t want to take the trips, but I want to know the person who does.”

When it gets beyond that, the campaign turns into a version of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. It may fall apart, I don’t’ know yet. Will people who don’t know me actually be willing to take the action to vote for me?

My first opportunity to test that came yesterday when River’s Edge Card & Gift Store sent out their e-newsletter. River’s Edge sells my book, Ipswich: Stories from the River’s Mouth, and has always been supportive of my work. We’ll see if patrons, who may be familiar with my book but who certainly have a connection to the store, will translate that familiarity into action.

Once the appeal for votes goes beyond friends of friends, I guess I’m going to have to channel Blanche DuBois:

“Whoever you are—I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

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