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Social Media as a Tool for Social Impact

Jeremy Scrivens, Director of The Emotional Economy at Work, authored a piece last month titled “The Future of Work is Social Business at Scale”. In the article, he distinguishes “digital,” which satisfies the human need to be engaged from the head, from “social,” which satisfies the human need to be engaged intrinsically from the heart and to contribute to social good. In short, the “digital” providing the what/how of work and the “social” providing the why.

Scrivens believes that the future of work is one in which digital and social combine to deliver social good at scale. An example of this would be to use social to find a meaningful and shared contribution to society and then to employ digital tools, such as mobile technologies and big data, to make the social solution a reality. A great example of this process is Ushahidi, which was formed to use big-data to map user-generated accounts of violence post-election in Kenya, and is now facilitating eyewitness reporting of everything from corruption in Macedonia to the Haiti earthquake. Scrivens argues that while this process may seem intuitive, such an “inside out” mindset is often outside the worldview of many enterprise leaders who grew up in a pre-social good era.

Engaging with people as unique individuals and using digital to serve social are the ingredients to successful business in the modern economy. The success of social media points to the value of engaging “social” as it serves the human need for expression, autonomy and authentic connection for impact. In short, digital has given consumers even more power to connect on a social level.

While it’s easy to get lost in industry jargon and the myriad of online tools available to boost your marketing efforts, social media at its root is social. In a recent Facebook Town Hall Q&A, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the power of social media by saying: “We used to have elections every five years. Now we have them every five minutes.” Businesses are now held to a social standard and face the challenge of keeping up with their customers’ needs in real time.

While this level of transparency may seem like another obstacle for your business to overcome, social media also offers the opportunity to authentically engage with your customers and forge a deeper, more meaningful connection. In a JD Power and Associates study, the authors reported that poor social media practices can negatively impact a businesses’ bottom line and brand image. In fact, 67% of respondents reported having contacted a company via a social media platform for support. Among highly-satisfied consumers, 87% indicated that the online social interaction with the company “positively impacted” their likelihood to purchase from that company.

The study also found that customers come to social media not for marketing, but rather for servicing. As discussed in our article on creating brand loyalty, successful marketing is now about attention to customer desires rather than creating an impressive campaign. A Bain & Company study found that when companies engage and respond to customers through social media, those customers end up spending 20% to 40% more on the company’s offerings than with other companies.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 1.06.07 PMBusiness at its root is about connections between people. Technology in the form of social media and big data has given us an opportunity to genuinely connect with people across the globe and to create innovative impact ideas. To be successful in business today, one has to leverage technology to further a social and human mission. While deciding on the right social media strategy may seem like an arduous and confusing process, it’s best to remember that an “inside out” approach, one that stems from personal connection and the human heart, is likely a good place to begin.

Maggie & Hector

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