Moving People Creates Movements

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What is art?

It’s a question that has been asked for as long as humans have done acts of creativity – from painting on cave walls to the architecture that surrounds us. Music is art and so to is the work that many of us do. While trying to find a true definition for "art" may be more difficult and challenging than one might suspect, I tend to define art as something that moves you. Granted, it’s a simplistic viewpoint, but it helps reconcile good art from bad art. If a work of art is bad it still moves you towards a feeling. Say what you will about Salvador Dali or Frank Lloyd Wright (you can love ’em… you can hate ’em) their work does move you, and their work is art. Remember, one person’s Motorhead is another person’s Lady Gaga. Art is personal and highly subjective (think about Dogs Playing Poker).

Does your work move you… or anybody else?

One of the reasons I love Social Media so much (and, more specifically, Blogging) is the instant feedback you can get from it. Write a Blog post that moves people and it suddenly gets tweeted up on Twitter or someone shares a link to it on Facebook. It may generate comments on the Blog or inspire someone to write a Blog post of their own. It could get popular on a site like Reddit. Traditional mass media journalists may even call you up to be interviewed about it. A magazine or newspaper might be so moved by it, that they offer you an opportunity to write for them. Your words might inspire an organization to invite you to come in to talk about your Blog post to their audience. Who knows, a book publisher or literary agent might be so moved that they put a book offer in front you. Your words might inspire a company to take action and hire you as their consultant or agency.

Things move very fast in the Social Media spaces.

Whatever you create is published instantly for the world to see, and what the world sees and how they are moved is there too for all to see. No, this isn’t about creating something and quantifying the success of it based on how many people are moved by it, but it is one of the ways to keep score. If people aren’t moved by what you’re creating, what does that say to you? If more and more people aren’t moved by what you’re doing, what does that say to you? If you’re constantly and consistently putting out your best work and it’s not connecting/finding an audience, what does that say to you?

Moving people creates movements.

The truth is that a lot of the content that is created and consumed online is – for lack of a better word – "vanilla." It’s generic and it hardly moves people (let alone moving any needles). Look no further than the industry we serve: Marketing. Think about how creative, innovative and powerful the work that we do is (at a core level, we’re trying to connect more and more people with the brands that we serve/nurture). In all of these channels and new media spaces, isn’t it astonishing how little of it actually moves people. And, when I say "move" I mean in a deep way.

It’s not about clicks.

Moving someone to click, follow, friend, like, give up their email address or whatever is not what I’m talking about. Most of the time, this is happening because an individual was incentivized to do so (a discount, status, etc…), not because they were moved by the brand. It’s a shame. Think about Marketing today. Think about the myriad of opportunities we have – as Marketers – to treat the work that we do as art (real art – not marketing messages thinly veiled as art). To think not just about whether or not someone bought our stuff and told others to do so, but to spend time, energy and focus on actually trying to move people. I don’t know about you, but even if we moved audiences in a negative direction, at least we’re getting some kind of emotion. Think about the brand loyalty that would come from actually moving your audience.

It would be nice to dream of a day – in the not-so-distant future – where Marketing shifts and changes to a place where everything that we do as Marketers actually moves people. Wouldn’t it?


  1. Great article, I totally agree with you. I understand however that the current online marketing is ruled by ‘accountability’ and ‘ROI’.
    I think that the term that fits with your artile is ‘brand ambassadors’. For a company is able to get to the level that your customers become brand ambassadors because they’re moved by the brand, that’s the biggest challenge.

  2. That was great. I love a reminder now and then to reach for something higher. At first I thought, “it’s not reasonable that every blog post or email or tweet be one that moves people” but then I realized that if you have a purpose, not just a job, then everything you do can serve that purpose.

  3. Moving people is what creates a relationship. If it’s positive you end up with loyal fans or customers.
    The click is the transaction and in the sales driven world, focus is very much on the transaction. Here today gone tomorrow.
    Creating art that moves people positively is something that great brands, big and small, do well. The transaction then becomes the pay back of that process rather then the purpose of it.
    Great article Mitch thanks.

  4. The thing marketers have to remember is that if you focus on moving people emotionally, then moving them to click/signup/buy flows naturally from that.

  5. When I read posts like this, two things happen in quick succession: 1) my spirits lift with a big “Yes, damn right!”, quickly followed by 2) a mental reminder I work in a largely commoditized industry that most people in the US instinctively dislike (health insurance), so let’s move on to the next article in my RSS feed.
    I am reminded by another author that wrote something along the lines of the overuse of the term “engagement” in describing one end-goal for companies setting social strategy, where he said most people have no desire to “engage” with corporations, but rather would just prefer them to be available when needed, and ideally, helpful. That’s where I set the bar first, as that seems more practically reachable than moving our customers on an emotional level – at least in the context of where I live Monday through Friday. I won’t comment on the value of negative emotional shift beyond having observed plenty of institutional excellence out there already.
    As a consumer, I have no desire to engage with 99.99% of the companies I deal with. Just give me fair value for my dollar or time and other than that leave me alone. Companies that do this have my appreciation and differentiate from the majority of the rest – perhaps this in and of itself qualifies as being moved, ever so slightly – but what you write of strikes me as being of a higher plane.
    I have no doubt that those that figure out this level of emotional connection through marketing enjoys a huge advantage, and probably are having a much better time doing their work than the rest. Where I do see success today in this context is in those that market themselves and their own brand – Mitch Joel included. The question is how can a larger entity scale what the most talented individual marketers are doing for themselves.
    Is it something that can be learned, or is it innate?

  6. Thanks for sharing Mitch. I believe movement is the key to ultimate satisfaction and connection with our members in our communities. The ability to connect with others core values that define them. Fortunately this is not easy and when one makes this type of connection it requires one to be in a vulnerable state. However once achieved it usually leads to a long lasting bond.

  7. Being in the same boat, trying to reach people I believe it’s easier said than done! Why? Because in order to move them they have to know you exist. If you can’t afford to pay sneezers to spread your brand and you can’t pay for adds, you can’t achieve much unless you spend your wholelife producing huge amounts of content and by the time you reach people somebody who could afford to pay is already ahead of you… It’s hard ๐Ÿ™

  8. You make some very interesting points, and your use of the idea of “movement” is a great way to think about art, marketing, and social media. Thanks for a thought-provoking article.

  9. What you’re talking about is the reason why I got into marketing in the first place. Unfortunately, as I entered this world I found out that egos, mediocrity, fast paced enviroments, business goals and schedules rule the day. Everybody is thinking short term (and moving people is more about the long term I think). However keeping that spark alive is key to succeed at whatever you do.

  10. Mitch,
    I love posts that think deeply about a topic, and I really enjoyed reading your post. I agree with you almost 100% Not everything one posts should have a deep meaning or purpose. Part of social media is having fun and goofing around! But, I do completely agree that you should have purpose with most everything you do. That way what you share goes a long way.
    I think it is also important to remember that who you engage with is equally as important was what conversation you are having. I can’t stand it when someone brags that they got 25,000 fans in two weeks, but how many of them are really interested in engaging? And how did you get those fans? Probably through a “click here” campaign. I would much rather have 250 fans who I know and are engaged with my than 25,000 random people who I lured into liking my page.
    Quality over quantity!
    Gwen Woltz
    Wahine Media

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