Friday, October 10, 2008

The Fastest-Growing Community?

T. Boone Pickens announced his energy plan and social networking site in early July. According to Ad Age (July 21) he planned to spend $58 on advertising and PR for the initiative. That’s not chump change, but it’s also not huge by corporate budget standards. He’s been all over TV since then, but it’s the building of his “ New Energy Army,” a community to support his plan, that is fascinating. I joined in September and put the badge over on the sidebar.

I got two or three emails from him last week urging me to attend an e-rally after Tuesday’s presidential debate. I signed up for it, but wasn’t interested in firing up my computer at that time of night. But I was really curious, so I watched the 43-minute video today. If you don’t want to take the time, I’ll give you a few high points.

It was a discussion between Pickens and Carl Pope, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club. That’s might be viewed as strange political bedfellows, but in the realm of alternative energy it’s not. They talked about issues related to alternative energy production and transmission but mostly they talked about having the political will to solve the US dependence on foreign oil. The way they position it is interesting—creating clean alternative energy sources will create enough US jobs to get the economy moving again. That’s a pithy summary, but it captures the essence of their common perspective. They took a few viewer questions, but Pickens reminded people several times to send in their comments; all would be in the hands of the candidates “within 48 hours.” He also asked them to call their friends and ask them to join the army.

What reminded me to watch the post-debate video was an email I received yesterday:


We're really close. Let's get to 1,000,000 today. Sign up just one more person at


Yes, he has an HTML weekly newsletter, but this was a simple, direct, text appeal. Interesting. It seems to be typical. Yes, he’s recruiting directly through his TV ads and other media appearances. A lot of the “Army” recruitment is being done through his site, which has all the new media bells and whistles. Today’s home page has a brief post-debate video and the continuing appeal to reach 1 million strong today. The tell-a-friend appeal in conveyed in many ways.

In my opinion, one doesn’t have to agree with every element of the plan to know that something needs to be done. If as a citizen you are moved to do so, join. If as a marketer you are moved to examine the site for the various community-building and communications devices they are using, you can only be impressed. Pickens is focused, direct, and as far as I can tell, transparent about what he’s doing (except for who’s his agency; I still can’t find out; that keeps the focus on the content where he wants it, I think).

Whatever your perspective, this initiative is worth watching for superb use of social networking tools.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Roberts,
I thank Al Gore everyday for this Internet thing! I heard about a "weed" that people were starting to grow as a biofuel and Shazam I put it in my favorite search engine that starts with a "G" and now I'm growing jatropha.
We are attending the Jaropha World 2008 Conference in Hamburg next week.
Haven't heard of jatropha? You will!
Ten years ago we would not have but today, because of blogs, YouTube, etc..., jatropha may be the answer for countries trying to wean themselves off fossil fuels.
We are running test plots in Arizona with the hope of providing clear, fact based, empirical information on jatropha which will allow individuals, communities and governments to decide if jatropha is viable for their need.
"Just the facts Ma'am". We should have some results in six months but what we have seen thus far is very promising. "Money for nothing and rent is free"? Not quite but a crop from "wasteland" is close.
With out the social aspect of the web jatropha may have never made it to where it is today, the hope for some in developing countries at a life from extreme poverty and a cleaner, more efficient renewable biofuel stock.
Check out the biofuel blogs and videos online( from all over the world!) and if you see Mr. Gore please thank him for me.

I hope Harvard allows you to have the social media class online next semester!
Best wishes,