When I said I would write more “tomorrow,” I actually meant next week. =) Funny enough it has been work that has kept me from writing about the work.
But now on to the why and how around loveLife’s mobile program.
Why mobile social networking?
1) Social networking plays directly into the key triggers of behavior change – identity, belonging, and purpose. Creating a profile is an explicit exercise in developing identity as you decide how you want people to see you; the nature of groups, forums, chats, etc. is rooted in developing belonging. And the core of this particular social network is around purpose.
2) loveLife’s massive physical network makes creating a virtual network a natural extension. Launching a viral product with a built in base of 20,000 people and access to 800,000 more is a marketer’s dream.
3) One of the core objectives of loveLife’s “Make Your Move” campaign is to link young people to potential opportunities. (Each year, millions of rand go back into the SA government budget simply because not enough people know about or know how to apply for government grants.) Another core objective is igniting initiative and self-reliance. Social networking tools provide a platform for young people to organize themselves. And since it’s all on their mobile, information dissemination (particularly around jobs, scholarships, and internships) becomes significantly easier.
So strategically, mobile social networking makes sense for loveLife. It may not be right for all NGOs, but it will bring this organization where it wants to be. How we came to create this thing, however, is a more interesting story.
As a marketing consultant, I’m in the business of messages and ideas. In my past experience with non-profits, the messages have been forced to be watered down and the big ideas are hardly ever able to survive.
The difference with loveLife is their CEO, David Harrison. Spend ten minutes with David and you realize he’s a visionary. Spend thirty minutes and you understand why he’s a brilliant fundraiser. Spend an hour with David and you notice he’s a bit of an anarchist, or at a minimum, not a huge fan of conventional wisdom.
More important than all of that – he gets it.
I spent only five minutes walking him through Facebook (an exercise I end up doing with most clients over 35), when his eyes lit up. He immediately saw the potential I had seen of social networking on mobile, and simply asked me, “How much?”
I warned him about the challenges, the largest of which was that we wouldn’t be able to control or always monitor the social network, as doing so would kill it. He understood. I warned him that it would require multiple hires and a reconfiguration of content development from his media team. He understood. I warned him that if it took off, it would be huge, and he had to be prepared for both the good and the bad that comes with that, including a need for new sources of funding. He understood.
One week later I interviewed nearly every mobile development agency in SA.
Two weeks later we hired one.
Three weeks later we outlined the scope.
Four weeks later I ran around the country focus grouping the functionality.
Five weeks later we began endless partnership conversations to bring in music, games, fun and prizes to the network.
It’s now six weeks after I mentioned a simple idea to David and I’m writing a product launch strategy.
This June, the product will be live.
I often can’t believe this is all actually happening. What began as a personal journey to South Africa has become one of my most enriching professional experiences. More importantly, I actually feel like I’m creating something that will provide value to the youth of South Africa. 10 of them could use it, or a million could be on it, and it would still mean as much to me. Because each of those kids is one additional person who has access to more information and more people and more tools than they did before. And for me, that's exactly how media and technology can help create social change.