Passion and Scale – getting “participation” right

Off the back of the Verb, Reverb and Amplify post from before Christmas, we’ve been doing some work projects on what this means for participation; we’ve a whole host of brilliants clients & brands that have done participation and done it pretty well…


…although as always, you’re never sure who did it, you or the community who started, kept and spread the participation.  That’s another story though.


This is more about two things; passion and scale.


Passion is what fuels participation; a central group will be hugely involved and collaborative, and others who see it are drawn to join in if it’s


a) simple to do so
b) they feel there’s encouragement to join in
c)  it’s something they’re pretty interested in



You know all this, I’ll move on.


The thing is about passion is that it disperses the bigger the group gets.  Be it a function of the Dunbar Number or whatever, it’s just really hard to do participation on any sort of massive scale.


Which is probably what makes it really hard for companies & agencies who’re used to dealing at the scale that advertising delivers to work through how they become ‘participative’ in their marketing.


Too often, perhaps, the answer reached is “to make this participative activity a success, we must set a really high target for the number of people who participate”.


Which I think is the wrong approach.


Let’s go back to this idea of Verb, Reverb and Amplify.  Rolling in the idea of participation & scale


i) VERB – what you do with people; the participation

ii) REVERB – the natural resonance that creates in social spaces; usually small, usually fast decayingiii) AMPLIFY – the way you tell the story of the what you have done together at scale; ‘advertising’, for instance





As a working model, it’s interesting as a principle.


It helps prioritise an order for doing things.


It builds in a realistic view of what’s possible, by highlighting that the natural reverberation of social spaces isn’t huge.


Which means it lets you build up more realistic targets for success.


And it gives a clear role for the more traditional media spaces of still potent tools like television (the debate about how long it remains potent is again, one for another day).


The thing I find most interesting about it though is this; for anyone who comes into contact with it at any stage, it can feel participative.


Yet it’s not reliant on mass participation to feel like a success.  It’s reliant on you being able to scale it in the right way, to tell an entertaining story about the things you’ve done with people in a compelling way.


Entertainment is central to this; the recent globalwebindex survey showed that for 66% of 16-24s, the prime motivation to engage with brands was for entertainment.  The good thing about entertaining things is that if they like them, people share them.  That’s what you were after, wasn’t it, people to share your message.


Why do the share them?  Well, finally, I think Bilal Jaffery hit the nail on the head with this…


“If I tell my friends about your brand, it’s not because I like your brand, but rather because I like my friends.”


So there you go; participation, scale, entertainment & sharing.  A rough model, granted, but we’re finding it kinda useful.