While some companies are still trying to get onto Facebook, period, Grassroots Enterprise — now part of Edelman Public Relations — is thinking about app fatigue.
Grassroots' CEO, former journalist Bill McIntyre, says social media innovation is a big part of the company's business. He claims that Grassroots was the first e-advocacy group to develop an application allowing a supporter with a Facebook account to send a letter to elected officials directly from Facebook.
Since then, he says, faced with mounting invitations to be a fan of That 80s Hair Band or to play Scrabulous, Facebook users are all apped out. They don't want any other bells and whistles.
But Facebook allows clients "to be relevant to a pool of people who are logically interested in their issue or product," McIntyre says.
That's too useful a tool to give up on, McIntyre said. So social media remains a central focus for his company.
But social media is not all Grassroots Enterprise does. The firm brands itself as a full-service digital advocacy consultancy: Clients can get communications strategy, web design, technology to engage supporters online and a database to help manage that engagement, and then, the icing on the cake, integrate the resulting presence with Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.
Grassroots advertises itself as more than happy to take on work strictly within any one of its areas of focus, rather than take on an entire campaign. But McIntyre certainly describes his approach as more holistic.
When it comes to reaching constituents, he said, many online strategies are "designed to bring them back to a website or a microsite, whatever it is. The smart way going forward broadens that pool, expands that net, so that wherever people are playing, listening, talking, doing work, whether its LinkedIn or Flickr or MySpace or YouTube or Facebook or Twitter or whatever else it is, that the engagement opportunity is out there so that all channels are reached and integrated."
Grassroots also offers online ad design and placement, but perhaps controversially, also advertises its ability to generate a large amount of online supporters in a short amount of time — which some folks might call astroturfing.
Grassroots Enterprise's core software product is Grassroots Multiplier, a constituent relationship management database that accepts add-ons to handle e-mail, social networking integration, and content management. Another product, Grassroots PhoneTheVote, is a mobile application that allows supporters to become part of a phone bank while on their smartphones. Multiplier is designed to allow for users to generate 17 standard reports and any number of custom ones that analyze supporters' interests and level of engagement in the hopes of turning the casually interested into the true believer.
When it comes to the software, McIntyre says, Grassroots is buy one, get 'em all.
"We don't sell modules as some do. Basically your hosting and subscription fee permits total access, almost like a buffet. Take what you want but eat what you take kind of thing," he says.
Grassroots also wraps consulting and account management around the software service — but that costs extra.
The firm's custom software work includes a Flickr wall where people mobilizing against a bill in Congress post pictures of themselves, protest signs in hand, and are automatically added to a dynamic webpage full of such pictures. Grassroots also develops mashups using Twitter and Google Maps. An early social media offering was an app allowing people to send letters to their elected officials in Washington without leaving Facebook.
With the rise of application fatigue, though, the new product is an addition to an organization's Facebook fan page which allows a supporter on Facebook to take action without installing an app. (They're still prompted to install one after they take action, however.) Grassroots also offers a "tell a friend" page that uses Facebook Connect to populate the list with a user's Facebook friends and a Facebook "action center" to prompt supporters to write letters or drum up support among their friends, among other social networking offerings.
- Grassroots Enterprise created an "I Am Smoke Free" Facebook application for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
- The American Chemical Society's Legislative Action Network website runs on Grassroots Multplier.
Grassroots Enterprise primarily serves large organizations like public interest groups, large non-profits, and industry groups. The firm's pitch comes in sweeping terms — we don't just build websites, we build movements, that type of thing — and its client list includes names like PhRMA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Grassroots — now a part of Edelman PR — has always been bi-partisan; McIntyre used to be the chief spokesman for the National Rifle Association, while one of the firm's founders, David Chiu, also once served as the Democratic counsel to the U.S. Senate Constitution Subcommittee. The firm recently took on the task of creating a Facebook page devoted to supporting the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court justice.
Varies; Grassroots executives said a campaign rarely ranges below the six-figure range in price.
PhRMA; American Chemical Society; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids