It’s been a big month for Lime. The shared micromobility company, well known for their green e-scooters, was recently one of just a few companies selected to operate in major cities including Chicago and Paris. But they didn’t do it alone.
The company engaged hundreds of advocates in both cities to contact local officials and build community around transportation issues. While every company touts its safety record, Lime differentiates itself with a community-focused approach. Lime works closely to turn existing riders and “soon-to-be” riders who want scooters in their cities into some of its strongest local allies.
“Advocacy has been a critical tool for Lime in demonstrating to elected officials that there is strong support for shared scooter programs among the communities they serve,” said Jonathan Perri, Director of Advocacy at Lime. “Personalized emails from our riders let mayors and city council members hear exactly how their constituents are using scooters to get to work and school, to supplement gaps in public transportation, and in today’s new reality, to access an open-air way to travel to prevent the spread of COVID. We’re incredibly lucky to have riders willing to advocate for shared micromobility.”
Lime has used sophisticated grassroots advocacy to boost many aspects of its business, from entering new cities to giving back to the communities where it operates. It’s new Lime Action program aims to turn 1 million Lime riders into advocates for safer streets, sustainable cities and social justice.
“We truly see ourselves as part of the communities where we operate,” Perri said. “We have a mission to help create more sustainable and healthy cities. Our new Lime Action program is a way to help our riders learn about local organizations working on issues like improving cycling infrastructure, clean air and breaking down barriers to voting.”
Founded in 2017, Lime finds itself in a unique position in the pandemic. The need for social distancing has made public transportation a challenge in cities all over the world. Lime’s micromobility options, which include electric scooters and bikes, are an attractive option—and perhaps a vital solution—in many places.
Lime’s recent acquisition of the bike and scooter company Jump from Uber, and a round of investment from the ridesharing company, have put Lime in a strong position to expand beyond the 120 cities in 30 countries where it operates. Lime is now the largest company in its space, powering more than 150 million rides on five continents.
For all of their expansion, Lime does not simply set up shop when it comes to town. Instead, it works with cities to establish safe operations and then joins those communities as a full participant.
Its Lime Hero program, for example, allows riders to round up what they spend on a ride and donate it to a local community-based organization in their home town. The program has raised more than $170,000 for more than 40 community organizations since the end of 2018. Another program called Respect the Ride gave away free helmets and got more than 100,000 people to sign a safety pledge to commit to safe and appropriate scooter riding.
Now, the Lime Action program is working on a larger scale. The company is encouraging its audience to get involved in communities by supporting initiatives sponsored by other organizations. That might be building protected bike lanes on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition or joining My Hood My Block My City, a Chicago nonprofit providing underprivileged youth with opportunities beyond their neighborhood. Lime recently joined the Austin Outside coalition to call for the funding of a citywide network of sidewalks, bike lanes, and urban trails in Austin, Texas. They’re currently the only shared micromobility operator in the coalition.
Lime created an action center, powered by Phone2Action, that will allow its audience to connect with these initiatives in their area. Launched in June, the program has already been well received.
“Now more than ever we’re seeing the need for healthy, equitable and safe transportation options,” said Eli Akira Kaufman, executive director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. “LACBC is grateful that companies like Lime are doing their part to support the needs of the community.”
Perri, whose background is in social justice, drove digital campaigns and nonprofit partnerships at Change.org for seven years before joining Lime. At Change.org he helped the parents of Trayvon Martin gain more than 2 million signatures for their petition; helped Rise and Funny or Die pass the first Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights in Congress; and supported the National Down Syndrome Society’s successful effort to pass the ABLE Act, which is landmark disability rights legislation. He also founded Nation of Second Chances, a photojournalism series telling the stories of formerly incarcerated people freed by President Obama. The project was nominated by The Webby Awards for Best Use of Photography.
‘So Much More To Do’
Lime’s advocacy efforts have also helped the company promote its core business, using email, text and social media campaigns—as well as messages in the Lime app—to mobilize people in favor of scooter and bike options.
In New York, for example, the company built a list of more than 5,000 advocates and launched six separate campaigns, beginning in 2018. Roughly half its list took action, resulting in almost 7,000 connections with public officials. A petition drive garnered more than 1,800 signatures.
The company’s open rate for email averaged 42 percent and clicks averaged almost 11 percent. Its text campaigns saw conversion top 9 percent in some cases, many times the industry average conversion rate for advocacy email.
A recent effort in Toronto using a letter campaign sent through the Phone2Action email tool saw a 33-percent open rate and 9-percent conversion. It mobilized hundreds of people to advocate for a law allowing scooters.
“Riders and the people who want scooter sharing respond really well to advocacy campaigns,” Perri said.
This spring, New York state officials allowed bikes and scooters to operate, followed by the New York City Council passing legislation authorizing a pilot program to begin next March, giving Lime a series of major legislative victories.
However, wins like this are not always about big numbers. The company often finds itself microtargeting, communicating with extremely small groups who are nevertheless extremely active. For example, a campaign to bring scooters to Ottawa, Canada, targeted just 87 people. But open and click rates were north of 60 percent.
“The goal here is to have social impact,” Perri said. “We know people want to see companies reflect their values. They expect, or at least hope, companies will use their platforms for good.”
And, so, he said, “This is just the start—there is so much more to do.”
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