There's an adage that is an apt description of the new dynamic at work between brands and consumers connected through social media: People support what they help to build. But now that many brands are launching community-driven cause marketing campaigns the challenge becomes what to do next?
Refuse to accept the belief that your professional relevance career success or financial security turns on the next update on the latest technology. Sometimes it's good to put the paddle down and just let the canoe glide.
Corporate executives need to re-frame their responsibilities to include the interests of all the stakeholders in society at large not just shareholders but also employees the citizens of our communities and those who care about the environment.
Through their own actions customers can hold companies responsible to higher standards of social responsibility. Through collective action they can leverage their dollars to combat the force of those investors who myopically pursue profits at the expense of the rest of society.
We need to develop and disseminate an entirely new paradigm and practice of collaboration that supersedes the traditional silos that have divided governments philanthropies and private enterprises for decades and replace it with networks of partnerships working together to create a globally prosperous society.
Today's consumers are eager to become loyal fans of companies that respect purposeful capitalism. They are not opposed to companies making a profit indeed they may even be investors in these companies - but at the core they want more empathic enlightened corporations that seek a balance between profit and purpose.
The most impactful way consumers can assert their power is to become mindful shoppers giving their dollars only to socially responsible companies. In today's world of social media and smart phones this is easy to do.
More brands are waking up to their social responsibility and doing good work through cause marketing campaigns. Yet too many still go about it the wrong way. I mean 'wrong' in two senses. Firstly they are marketing ineffectively and secondly as a consequence their positive social impact is not maximized.
When a positive exchange between a brand and customers becomes quantifiable metrics it encourages brand to provide better service customer service to do a better job and consumers to actively show their gratitude.
Many corporate leaders and employees have the right intentions but it can be overwhelming when you consider how everything is affected from leadership styles to organizational structure to employee engagement to customer service an marketplace.
Let's hope brands recognize that the true power of this technology is not its reach but its ability to communicate substance that adds meaning to our lives. Otherwise brands will be investing in technology that consumers simply won't buy.
Any institution faces two basic choices if they hope to spark new ideas. One is to leverage the brains trust within their organization by creating a special event dedicated to new thinking. The other is to look outside themselves to stimulate solutions.
Corporations consumers and citizens must begin acting in concert to create a powerful third pillar of social transformation if we hope to meet the social challenges we currently face with equal force. This begins with corporations that choose to alter how they practice capitalism in two ways to serve the greater good.
Gluttony might be innocuous were it not for the fact that gluttons tend to disregard whether their self-serving behaviors harm anyone else. We don't need to look far and wide to find examples of gluttonous behavior as they are numerous throughout the history of capitalism.
The private sector must play a role in ensuring the prosperity and health of the people who comprise its market. It is time for the private sector to become a proactive partner contributing to the efforts of governments and philanthropies.
The United States is at a critical juncture in time. Our government is riddled with historic debt and the limited resources of philanthropic and non-profit efforts cannot meet the scale of social challenges we face with necessary force.
Corporations often partner with government after natural disasters as many companies did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. As a rule however long-term civic/corporate partnerships are still rare .But this need not remain the status quo as many opportunities are available for such partnerships.
In fact I believe the first companies that make an effort to develop an authentic transparent and meaningful social contract with their fans and customers will turn out to be the ones that are the most successful in the future. While brands that refuse to make the effort will lose stature and customer loyalty.
And if you look at the reality in the United States where you have more than 40 million people below the poverty line and 42 million on food stamps and then you look at poverty around the world clearly the way we're running the engine of capitalism is not serving us well.
There is an overwhelming amount of information available to us all on the web each day not to mention what is shared with us by our family friends fans and followers. This necessitates the need to filter through all that information and to decide for ourselves where to put our attention.
How much do you as a consumer value a positive experience with a brand or its customer service department? How willing are you to share that with your friends? How inclined are you to let that person know that you're interaction with them was positive?
Ultimately it's possible that social media platforms will be designed as templates that the users themselves customize in terms of the best way to express their community and experience of life and brands will have to simply follow suit.
Corporate America cannot afford to remain silent or passive about the downward spiral we are undergoing. It cannot turn a blind eye to how difficult the experience of life is for so many of their customers.
Brands must have a point of view on that purposeful engagement whether it's directed towards the environment poverty water as a resource or causes such as breast cancer or education. Merely declaring your commitment to a category or cause will not be enough the distinguish your brand sufficiently to see a return on these well-intended efforts.
With the never-ending stream of new social technologies apps and platforms rolling out every day its easy to get lost in the minutiae of social media. Yet for there to be effective change especially within large top-down hierarchical institutions a company must have an over-arching understanding of the new role it has to play.
Brands must empower their community to be change agents in their own right. To that end they need to take on a mentoring role. This means the brand provides the tools techniques and strategies for their customers to become more effective marketers in achieving their own goals.
When people align around shared political social economic or environmental values and take collective action thinking and behavior that compromises the lives of millions of people around the world can truly change.
It is time for corporate America to become 'the third pillar' of social change in our society complementing the first two pillars of government and philanthropy. We need the entire private sector to begin committing itself not just to making profits but to fulfilling higher and larger purposes by contributing to building a better world.
The creative destruction that social media is currently unleashing will change more than technology or the leader board of the Fortune 100. It is driving a qualitative shift in the nature of relationships between brands and their customers.
In the social business marketplace brands that hope to build loyal and growing communities do so most effectively when they demonstrate their core values and allow a community to build and engage around it.
In today's social business marketplace Facebook is one of the best places for nonprofits to be discovered and connect with a larger audience on the basis of shared values. So to get started a non-profit should launch a Facebook page and invite your existing real world community to connect your cause and their networks.
The social business marketplace is effectively forcing brands to engage with consumers on the basis of something that is meaningful to them. More often than not this takes the form of some core value that finds expression in a non-profit cause.
Perhaps the most effective way to describe the approach a brand must take is to think of themselves as social cartographers. By that I mean that brands must simultaneously inspire engage and maintain a series of conversations taking place within certain cultural landscape specific to their business goal.
In the coming years if not sooner social media will become a powerful tool that consumers will aggressively use to influence business attitudes and force companies into greater social responsibility - and I suggest move us towards a more sustainable practice of capitalism.
As a speaker business leader or marketer of any type the onus is now on each of us to become equally capable of communicating very personally with a seemingly endless number of people connected by social technologies.
Not since the digital revolution in the early '90s has technology placed such a comprehensive burden on business employees and individuals to reinvent their business plans services and products and themselves to keep pace with the changing marketplace.