How to Spark a Movement (SXSW Recap)

Scott Heiferman – founder of

This solo presentation from Scott was the last session on Saturday, and it was the perfect way to cap off my first day. He did a terrific job of infusing his talk with both enthusiasm and practicality:

There are people everywhere looking to connect. He showed a screenshot of a girl named Erin writing on Invisible Children’s Facebook page, asking if there was anywhere near her in Chicago who would like to do something for the movement together. “Erin’s are everywhere!” he proclaimed. Referred to Erin throughout presentation.

A movement=big change! People identify themselves with it: I’m an… environmentalist, feminist, evangelical

“History of the world is defined by what happens when people meet up.”

You go to a movement’s Web site and it says “Watch us! Download us! Friend us! Follow us!” User thinks “What about ME?”

Many movements suffer from the illusion of engagement. So you signed our pledge – so what? It’s easier than ever to have pseudo-followers, but…

Followers are great if you’re starting a cult, or a dictatorship, or an autocracy.

How to engage followers?

  • Distribute responsibility, not just info or tasks.
  • Get people to self-organize and connect
  • Watch what happens when people connect and share stories.
  • On Meetup, people use “Let’s” in their posts a lot. “Let’s build a business together!”
  • Go from Me to We

“Organizing the world’s people (not information) is really the heart of the internet,” says Scott.

Movement strategy: BE EVERYWHERE! But that’s impossible. So, crowdsource your everywhereness.

A movement is: “universal distribution, leadership factory, local representation, personal care and contact, turn people into participators, turn your audience into an army.” –Rick Warren, pastor

Engine of Sustained Movement
1. Get followers and fans around the mission.
2. Get them interactging online globally.
3. Meetup locally. (“Use the internet to get off the internet.”)

Set things up so that leaders can emerge. “Who’s going to be in charge of____________?”

ASK for commitment! People will surprise you.

Small organization? Think of yourself as a node that ‘s part of a larger movement, and tap into that power.

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