Consumerism + Activism = Cash Mobs-Nazar Kamangar/bridge consulting blogs
We’ve talked about several different ways you can draw people to your business using social media. Today, let’s kick the week off by looking at things from a slightly different angle. You’re not the only person who can promote your business using social media; community activists who want to change the word locally rather than globally in your area may very well be using social media to put together cash mobs to benefit small businesses.
The term ‘cash mob’ was inspired by the term ‘flash mob’. A flash mob is a group of people who assemble covertly in a public place, and then break out seemingly spontaneously in an unusual activity, usually for the purposes of entertainment or artistic expression. A cash mob is a group of people who assemble at a small business armed with cash in order to make purchases and infuse the local economy with money.
The first cash mob was reportedly started by Chris Smith, a blogger from Buffalo, NY. In August 2011, he organized more than one hundred people to purchase items from a local wine shop. Smith described the mobs as a “reverse Groupon” which would create a “chance for business owners to begin building a longer-term relationship with customers”. The idea seems to have entered the collective unconscious at this point, as just three months later, and attorney in Cleveland, OH had the same idea. People affiliated with that Cleveland cash mob started a website to organize future events and help provide a format for people around the world to model their own cash mobs.
So how does it work? Easy. Event organizers pick a local business to benefit from the cash mob. They notify the selected business in advance so that retailers can be sure to have enough product, and restaurant management can add staff if necessary. Then, they begin reaching out to community members online through venues such as Facebook and Twitter to generate interest in the event. Participants generally agree to spend at least $20 at the cash mob destination, though they don’t generally know the location until just before the event happens, in order to add an aura of mystery and excitement. They can meet up with organizers at a secondary location immediately prior, or learn the destination via social media channels.
Cash mobs have sprung up all over the country, from New York to California to Washington to Oregon, infusing small businesses with cash, introducing them to new customers, and generating buzz that will last them long past the event. In a recent L.A. Times piece, the movement is described as being a community-building effort that is informed by the movement to “buy local”.
If you have a business that would benefit from this kind of boost, see if there are events in your area that would allow you to get involved. Even if your business isn’t on the receiving end of a cash mob, you can still make great connections with other small business owners and activism-minded community members by participating on the other side. Many local Chambers of Commerce are getting on board, so it’s worth contacting yours to encourage them to organize cash mobs in your community.
A flash mob can be really cool to watch, but is ultimately meaningless; a cash mob, on the other hand, is a trendy, consumer-driven activity with a deeper meaning. Whatever side of it you’re on, it’s a great thing to be a part of.