how an author is using small conversations and viral campaigning

Just recently we saw a viral campaign to raise funds for a book to be published. Shared by someone we rate we ended up pitching in for a copy ourselves. Called 'Anarchists in the Boadroom' by Liam Barrington Bush we thought we'd ask the author to talk a little about the channels he's using to raise the funding. And about the book. He's a nice man so he did...

by Liam Barrington-Bush

Last year I went to Mexico to write a book about what social change organisations could learn about organising and management from social media and social movements. It begins from the premise that the vast majority of our non-profit and voluntary organisations have taken-on the organising models of industrialism, often without realising it. Further, these models are both deeply at odds with most of our organisations’ values and are ill-equipped to face the increasingly networked world in which we find ourselves.

Throughout the book, I share bits of ‘management advice,’ gleaned from Occupy camps, worker-run factories, direct action campaigns and Twitter trends, finding alternatives to a range of organisational practices, from decision making to group coordination, campaigning to volunteer management and more.

I called the book, ‘Anarchists in the Boardroom: How social media and social movements can help your organisation to be more like people,’ which didn’t make it especially appealing to publishers.

So I took a page from my own book and decided to publish it the anarchist way – with no institutions!

In less radical terms, I chose to self-publish.

In just over a week, 89 people have pledged almost $5,000 to the crowd-funding campaign on StartSomeGood.com.

It’s been a lot of work, but it’s also been a lot of fun. Call it the ‘small conversations approach to viral campaigning.’ Or maybe just ‘teamwork.’

In a sense, the process began when I started using Twitter about four years ago. Since then, much of what I call ‘work’ has been a collaborative process with an ever-expanding network of people mulling-over similar questions. For this reason, a widely-held sense of investment in this month’s campaign has come through countless Tweets and blog comments over the course of at least a few years. The importance of this can’t be underestimated. Those bits of online dialogue offered much value at the time, but also laid the foundations for the kinds of success I’ve been so amazed by this month.

In practical terms the process began with an ‘inner circle’ of friends, family and close co-conspirators a week before the campaign. I asked them if they would be so kind as to get in early and share the campaign with their networks once there was a bit of support showing.

They ran with it and got the campaign to the cusp of its tipping point (bare minimum budget) in three days.

I also spent a lot of time sending personal emails to people I knew liked to blog, encouraging them to do so, whatever their followings, if they were keen to help spread the word.

Those blogs meant new supporters I’d never met (or seen the avatars of) started popping up – the best indication that you’ve moved beyond your inner circle and your campaign is swimming out there in a bigger pond than the one you unleashed it in!

The combination of a strong start and a few supportive blogs and endorsements helped open the doors to a range of guest blogs, which will be popping up around the internet in the next week or so, each one connecting the campaign with a new audience.

Wherever I’m writing about the book and the campaign, I’m making sure to keep the Facebook page, the email list sign-up and my Twitter profile visible, so even if people aren’t in a position to pledge money, they can still stay in the loop.

In a nutshell:

  • ·         Start with those closest to you and ask them nicely to get involved early on.
  • ·         Encourage those who like to share stuff, whatever their audience is like, to get the message out wherever they can.
  • ·         Leverage their support to reach some of the larger scale press and blogs.
  • ·         Make sure people who come to you through those channels can still stay in touch, even if they don’t want to pledge right away.

In the book I describe three ‘more like people’ principles: humanity, autonomy and complexity, each of which I’ve done my best to apply to the crowd-funding process.

Humanity is about staying human! Avoiding generic (in favour of personal) communications as much as you can. Taking the time to chat with those who are interested in the ideas, even if you’re busy. Letting your own passion and enthusiasm show, wherever you’re sharing your messages. Showing your appreciation for the support you get and staying humble.

Autonomy is about giving people who are passionate about a cause the space to find their own ways of supporting. Suggestions can be good, but anything resembling imposed pressure will get in the way of them finding their own best ways to take action.

Finally, Complexity tells us that, even with the best strategy we can muster, we can’t control a complex world, and that many of our attempts to do so end up back-firing. So when you make a plan, expect to be constantly re-evaluating it throughout the process.

…Which is what I’ve been doing while writing this post… we’ll see what the next couple of weeks have in store! Feel free to get involved if you’re interested in helping the book see the light of day!

Liam Barrington-Bush is the author of 'Anarchists in the Boardroom' and advises organisations on how they can be more like people. For more information: .

Picture credit.