Harness Self-Interest

Mistake #8: Requiring Supporters

In an ideal world, no doubt everyone would be a supporter of your cause. Unfortunately, as I suspect you’ve noticed already, we’re not. If you can manage to catch our attention for 30 seconds when we’re in the right mood, and you’re really lucky, then maybe we’ll give you a ‘Like’ on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to do anything more than that. The vast majority of people simply have too many other things that they’re already far too busy with to spend any time on your website unless it does something for them.

Yes, I’m sure you think that if people just understood how important the issue is, they’d all be falling over themselves to do whatever it is you want, but achieving that is like winning the lottery. It’s not that it never happens, it’s just that if your future depends on it, you’re in trouble.

It’s much easier to catch people at their own point of pain, help them with that, and find a way to turn that into something much bigger. Someone who reports a pothole on FixMyStreet generally isn’t subscribing to some grandiose vision of How Things Should Be — they’re probably just fed up with having to swerve around it every morning on their way to work. Most people who make a request on WhatDoTheyKnow aren’t interested in Freedom of Information campaigning — they’re simply trying to find something out. But in each case, tapping into that self-interest and aggregating it all in public achieves something significant.

If your site revolves around people contributing something simply for the benefit of society at large, then you’ve a massively uphill struggle to overcome. There are many, many more people in the world who don’t support your cause, don’t believe in your philosophies, and have no real interest in making your world a better place. But if you can find a way to help them, and in so-doing, also help everyone else — then you’ve got something worth shouting about.

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