A farmer sows some seed, so a parable from the Bible goes, and some of the seed falls on thorny ground and gets chocked. Some seed gets "scorched" by the sun, and still some seed gets eaten by the birds that fly by for a quick meal. But some of the seed falls onto good soil, takes root, and begins to grow, bearing up to 100 times more seed that was originally sown from just that single seed.
You don't have to get far through school to learn about sowing and reaping. We sow seed, and in due time, that seed has created a crop for us. From the apples we eat to the acorns that we gave at, we know that those seeds produce apple trees and even great big oak trees – all from the smallest of ingredients. And You don't have to get far through business life to realize that this lesson works there too.
From Scattering to Gathering
We spoke last month about scattering the seeds of our message, with the emphasis on making our messages accessible to where people are. We compared it to a water cooler, the place where employees go to chat and talk, and asked ourselves how we are getting our messages to the water coolers where our audiences are conversing.
This month we're looking at what we do next, learning again from the farmer who has sowed his seed.
The first thing we notice from the farmer is that not everything that he scatters works out. It's important to understand that our message will not impact everyone and not everyone will take it up.
Whist this should go without saying, it surprises me how personal people continue to make things. We must understand that we'll always only get a percentage.
The second thing we notice is that we know what did work because it begins to show it – through the bearing of fruit. In the marketing world, I like to identify this as participation. I know that someone is responding because they begin to participate with me – however small it might be.
It is understanding participation, and how participation gathers people together, that we really get value out of all of this.
Participation: The Key To Gathering
I worked on a framework earlier this year about Levels of Participation, demonstrating how there are levels of participation and we must understand that the higher the participation required, the fewer people who will do it.
For instance, a like button is an easy way to participate, but a comment take a higher degree of "participation" and thus fewer people do it.
Now whilst fewer people participate the higher you go, it is critical that we provide ways to participate at all levels, in order to capitalize on people's motivation to work with us.
People are more giving than you think, and many of our advocates-in-waiting are patiently in waiting for permission to participate. Whilst the height of participation is curating – where people are actively leading the community and re-creating value out of what your community brings – the key to gathering is probably best described by an old story of mine.
When I was 19 I started a youth charity that was designed to engage with young people through music events once a month. At first, the events had very few people, around 30 – 40 a month, but in one event we went to 350. What happened? Well, that event was "the battle of the bands", in which we had 5 local bands who battled each other. What I learnt was that by putting 5 bands into our show – as opposed to just the 1 that we used to have – we had 5 sets of fans who all came to see the bands perform. Next month, learning from this, we had 400 people, and it wasn't long until we had 1,000 a month.
The lesson I learned was what every teacher in the world knows when it comes to school plays –if you put all the kids in the show, all the parents will come to see them perform.
For instance, earlier this year the telecom operator Orange took a photo of the crowd at Britain's largest festival, and then asked people to tag themselves in the photo. It's since become Facebook's most tagged photo – why? – because all the kids were put in the show. Or how about Tim Burton who is letting his fans write his next story? Or the incredible way in which Old Spice made videos for key influencers and got the whole internet talking about them.
From Gathering To…
Next month? We find out what the farmer does with his crop after he's reaped it.