Social Media and Selfless Social Good

Homeless

Do Companies Really Care?

“Likes” and “follows” build an audience, but marketers want more. Marketers want the deeper connection the words like and follow imply but have lost as social collections have replaced true social connections.

I saw this weekend’s #usblogs challenge on social media and social good, and it clicked. Marketers want an emotional connection, they talk about “humanizing” brands and having conversations with people. Yet marketers often miss the opportunity to rise to an occasion and selflessly do good. Sure, companies respond with donations. However, many seem like calculated, self-serving moves, like the recent Bing gaffe to give to Japan.

The key marketers miss is selfless good. Look around, consider your friends. The real people, not the brands with a label next to your name. How many only care about themselves? How many only help others after weighing the benefit to themselves? Likely, not many (or you need some better friends).

Social media is a great place for marketers to incorporate social good into their image. This is where marketers already are trying to humanize their brands (beyond just adding pictures of pretty people to advertisements). Here are three ways marketers with a human and caring side can show it in social media.

  • Your Company Is Full of Caring People. Even if it is difficult to highlight corporate contributions without appearing self-serving, companies can always recognize the contributions employees make to society. Start recognizing what people in your organization care about, particularly the people that are the face of your brand in social media.
  • Adopt a Cause. While responding to disasters with one-time donations is admirable, it comes off as a one-time act. Companies should care, which requires organizational attention, not just give. Employees, and by virtue the company itself, will care more about a cause when they get to know it and see the good done over time. Aside: the same is true for individuals, get to know the organizations you give to!
  • Let Others Share for You. Social media may be coordinated, but it doesn’t happen just in marketing, every employee has a voice in social media. When businesses commit to caring, employees and the community will take notice and share for you, without prompting. In addition, philanthropic companies are regularly recognized in the media, like the America’s Most Generous Companies in Forbes or the corporate philanthropy awards held each year by the Portland Business Journal. But don’t pressure employees to share. All it takes is one comment exposing selfish motive to undermine your best intentions.

Something pulls at all of our heart strings. For most of us, there are more pulls than we can afford, in time or money, to support the way we would like. If it is a disaster of overwhelming proportions, like Japan, or the challenges facing the homeless, veterans or orphans in our local community, we give to help others, expecting nothing in return, and appreciating a simple and heartfelt thank you when we receive it.

Marketers who want to humanize their brand must not just act more human, but act like the people we want to have as friends. Of course this is a fine line for marketers to walk. We instinctively distrust companies and media. Less than half of Americans trust businesses, and the numbers are deteriorating. When a company does do good, we expect an ulterior motive. However, continuing to be self-centered is not an option.

I, for one, would rather do business with a company that does good, and has an occasional PR gaffe because of it, than with a company that doesn’t even try.

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