We’ve discussed the satirical web comic ‘The Oatmeal’ before on our social media channels, but if you’re still unfamiliar with the concept, the site is created and curated by Matthew Inman and features funny and satirical comics with occasional articles. While some of the site’s content is NSFW and highly controversial, Inman’s site has received significant media attention in the past few months due to amazing fundraising. Although we haven’t seen any Guinness officials report on the subject, they were able to raise an obscene amount of money in what appears to have been a record-breaking amount of time for an organization that is not a non-profit – twice!
The first time, Inman was being sued by FunnyJunk.com for $20,000 for purportedly stealing comics from their website and passing them off as his own. Knowing that all of his comics were his own, Inman decided to ask his website fans for $20,000 in donations that would go directly to charity. He ended up raising enough money to give $211,223.04 directly to the American Cancer Society (a 4% fee was charged by the service that he used to accept donations.) The second time, one of Inman’s comics about Nikola Tesla became wildly popular as an Internet meme. A museum that was in the process of becoming erected in the 1900s fell through and Inman again turned to his strong fellowship to raise the $850,000 needed to buy the land to build the museum in 45 days. They reached the $850,000 mark after 5 days. After 34 days (as of August 26th, 2012) Inman has raised $1.1 million dollars.
What is it about this author that allows him to attract such a devoted (and generous) following? What secrets lie within these comedic renderings that are so inspiring to others that they would donate so generously to his cause? The answer is one that many small businesses should look to: build your following and engage with them often. While the answer seems simple, it is one that many businesses struggle with. While ‘The Oatmeal’ is only three years old, Inman began his endeavor by posting free, funny comics two times a week. His gift of comic intuitiveness allowed his popularity to spread throughout web, and allowed people to connect with and develop a relationship with him. When these followers then saw him struggling, they were more than willing to offer up their help. ‘The Oatmeal’ has now been read by over 100 million people worldwide and has received nearly one billion total page views.
While your brand’s page may not enjoy the same devoted following just yet, the lesson here is to continuously build your brand by establishing genuine rapport. While it may take some time, your sincerity will eventually shine through.