by Amanda Shunta
Vice President – West Michigan Jobs Group, LLC
When I heard the story on NPR about the Cleveland Cash Mob, the wheels in my head immediately began turning. I thought, “this would be great for Muskegon and it wouldn’t be too hard to pull off!” Through my non-profit organization, West Michigan Jobs Group, we have seen how powerful social media can be. We were successfully able to lure a 100-MW wind farm to the Waste Water Treatment facility in Muskegon through gaining support, educating, and organizing through the use of social media. I figured a Cash Mob would be a piece of cake compared to the amount of work that took!
There are several reasons I was drawn to the Cash Mob idea. After dealing with the polarizing topic of wind energy in the area, it was nice to find something non-political that would benefit the city. It’s not a Republican or Democrat thing, it’s not a religious debate, it’s purely a cause that anyone in the community can support. It’s unifying.
The city of Muskegon has one of the highest unemployment rates in Michigan. More people are moving out than moving in to the city, and along with that the morale of the citizens has plummeted. Participating in a Cash Mob makes people feel good – and it should! It’s helping out a local store not just by each person spending $20, but also the publicity that comes with a cash mob benefits the store for weeks afterwards. It is something that the stores themselves are not organizing; it is the community doing it, and so it gives the mob a “pay it forward” or a “random act of kindness” altruistic feel that makes people feel good. That is something Muskegon, MI desperately needed. Also, it’s keeping money in the local community which benefits our schools, roads, charities, and so much more. Something else to feel good about!
Another reason to organize a Cash Mob is to give people a specific date and time commitment to shop at a particular place. The store that we organized our first Cash Mob at, Continuity, has been around for 3 (ish?) years, and you hear people say “Oh I’ve been meaning to check that place out.” Well, this holds people to it, and when someone has a specific date, time, and purpose, they’re more likely to follow through. For others, it was an opportunity to check out a part of town they didn’t know existed. The president of my organization, Eric Justian, wasn’t even aware of Continuity or the surrounding shops. He blogged about how not only did he have a great experience at Continuity but also found a treasure in the neighboring Asian Market that he had been unaware of until the Cash Mob.
Lastly, the reason to Cash Mob is because it is fun! I didn’t spend a penny while organizing and marketing the cash mob. It was all done through social media (mostly Facebook, Twitter, and a little LinkedIn) and word of mouth. I got to meet people whom I had never met before, I grew my networking base through the new connections I had made, and just being in a store filled with positive energy was a rush! I plan to keep organizing Cash Mobs until we either run out of stores in the area or run out of interest from participants. I hope it is a long time before either happens!