Recently, I was reading Unleashing the Ideavirus, Seth Godin’s excellent book on how ideas get shared among people. The book is available as a free PDF. It’s a little bit dated in terms of specifics, but the ideas are still the same: if you have a compelling idea and share it freely in a compelling way, other people will do most of the work in spreading it around for you. Like, for example, that link I just provided to Seth’s book – it’s a compelling idea and shared freely, so it gets passed around.
As with anything I read, I try to apply the idea behind it to what I’m doing. It’s fairly clear that my “ideavirus” that I wish to spread is frugality, or, in other words, spend less than you earn and make wise spending choices. I started this blog to talk about my own challenges with that idea – my successes, my failures, and what I learn about it.
From my perspective, The Simple Dollar’s success isn’t judged by the income I make. If that were my primary motivation, this site would have a lot more ads on it – and some of them would be rather dodgy. You’d be shocked at some of the ad offers that have been made to me – I could be a rich man right now. Instead, I run fewer ads and, as time goes on, I’m starting to negotiate ad agreements directly with organizations that I believe in and strongly match my own goals. My goal is to eventually have nothing but a small handful of ads on the site, all directly negotiated with companies doing business that I personally find value in, and that would raise me enough income to allow me to do the real work of The Simple Dollar.
What’s the “real work”? I judge the success of The Simple Dollar in terms of the number of people who have made positive changes in their financial lives because of the site. That’s my big motivation.
I know that at least some of you – both those of you who have your own blogs and those of you who do not – share this same motivation. You believe, as I do, that individuals are far better off when they have firm control over their money. They spend it more wisely, don’t carry a heavy debt load, and aren’t kept up at night with money worries. They live happier, can retire younger, and have more freedom to make big life choices (like trying a new, more fulfilling career).
How can this ideavirus be spread as widely as possible? This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Here are my conclusions.
Write catchier stuff that makes these ideas simple, attractive, and interesting. In other words, write something that’s entertaining enough to keep people intrigued and yet simple enough so that the idea behind it comes through. I think my best success in that department is my personal finance on the back of five business cards post, where I literally drew out the basic ideas of personal finance. Those are the kinds of things that people will send to their friends – and some of those friends will send it along to their friends.
Make the idea portable. Create something that people can take with them. Make posts easy to print out, for one. Another idea? I created a simple, straightforward set of money exercises called 31 Days to Fix Your Finances and made a downloadable document out of them. Even better, I encourage people to send it to their friends.
Figure out which ideas really work, then work hard at sharing them. Based on my traffic, I can tell that the two things above really worked, whereas some of my other ideas haven’t worked as well. The people who actually read it are telling me which ones work and which ones don’t. What does that mean? I make sure that, when I introduce others to the site, I send them the ones that work first. The catchy ideas. That way, even if they don’t stick around, they’re more likely to get that “spend less than you earn” idea stuck in their head.
Practice it loudly and proudly in my own life. I have the largest garden on the block. I also have what appears to be the oldest vehicle on the block. I share homemade food with the neighbors – not long ago, I gave one of our neighbors a loaf of my homemade zucchini bread. When people ask what I like to do, I talk about things that are very cheap or free – playing with my kids, playing board or card games, working in the yard.
Use “loud and proud” business cards. This one might particularly amuse you guys. Another thing I do to spread the idea is I give out “reminder” business cards. I encourage people not to file them away with their other business cards they get from people, but put it in their wallet next to their credit cards. On one side of the card is a gentle and humorous reminder to spend less than you earn, done in a very bright green. On the reverse, all it says is “Money got you stressed? Visit The Simple Dollar. http://www.thesimpledollar.com/”. The idea’s simple – if they see it in their wallet next to their credit card as they’re about to spend, it might encourage them to think twice about it.
Do you have any additional ideas how I could – or you could – spread the idea that frugality is interesting or cool or a good idea? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.