Hey, it’s a good cause, and I’ve got bills to pay


If you want to grow your business you must first grow your network. And if you can’t, get your checkbook ready.

Let’s face it. Many of us, and the companies we work for, do not have the capacity to solve the complex problems we set out to solve. Weather we strive for world peace, landing a  new client, or simply growing our businesses beyond 2 % in a single digit growth economy, we struggle when we work as single entities.

When we move away from a focus on growing individual organizations, to growing networks– anew world opens up to us. Companies that do this  are “Networked.”  They leverage the power of social media and connectedness. They engage people to shape and share their work to raise awareness of social issues. They organize communities to provide services or advocate for legislation.They engage in conversations with people beyond their walls — lots of conversations — to build relationships that spread their work through the network.

Working this way is possible because of social media. However,  you need the right tools (and free agents) in your bag if you’re going to be successful.

Most social media Marketers will tell you that you need free agents. A free agent is a person who is a passionate about a social cause (that’s the good news). They work outside of an organization to organize, mobilize, raise money, and engage with others (also good).  Free agents are fluent in social media and take advantage of social media tools to promote your cause (this should be starting to sound too good to be true).

That’s because it is. Free agents want you to pay them to promote your cause/business to their network. And the more followers they have, the more it’s going to cost. Oh, and there are no guarantees you’ll get a return on your investment. You just have to believe in the power of people to get swayed by other people.

Shawn is an example of a free agent. He has created a movement of people who are dedicated and care about solving extreme global poverty. He tells his story, in a compelling way online. Overtime he has built a huge following of people who care what he has to say, and more importantly, listen and engage with him.

Wendy Harman  (who is employed by the Red Cross) took note of this, perhaps by watching this video. Knowing that she couldn’t solve her problems alone, she engaged Shawn to gain a following for her cause.

After their first meeting, Shawn wrote this post entitled Unfortress.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if there was a business transaction involved.

At the end of the day, social media tools don’t create relationships or cure causes we care about. People do. And if there is anything that people are good at, it’s creating meaning through social interactions, and when all else fails…buying what we want.

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About charlottecosgrove

Disclaimer:this blog has been created as an educational exercise for my graduate coursework at John's Hopkins University
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2 Responses to Hey, it’s a good cause, and I’ve got bills to pay

  1. Hi Charlotte, just thought I’d leave a comment to your blog post. I’m currently writing this wearing clothes my parents had to buy for me. I’m also typing this from my parents’ house because I can’t afford a place to rent on my own. Ditto for water, utilities, and the internet connection I’m using to post this.

    I mention that not because I’m happy to be so financially dependent at 30 years old, but because I find your suggestion that a “business transaction” was involved with my dealings with Red Cross to be laughable. Don’t get me wrong – if there are people out there who want to provide help as a paid consultant, more power to them.

    But, at least for me, my credibility comes from endorsing charities in a way that my endorsements are not tinged by financial compensation. This is especially true for charities (like Save the Children) where I team up with them on the ground in the developing world. Also., thus far, the only charity that has ever paid me has been UNICEF. And that was already public information.

    Best wishes,

    – Shawn

  2. charlotte cosgrove says:

    Shawn – thanks for your note! It’s good to know there are still some “good guys” out there!

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