Social media for social good—and what the business world needs to remember

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I went to the #social4good event (May 12) at Stanford University, which featured guest speakers actor Kevin Bacon and Jennifer Aaker, author of the book “The Dragonfly Effect.” I am always curious to learn about how other people and industries use social media, so I was looking forward to hearing interesting tidbits on what else … social media for social good.

Kevin Bacon took the stage to share his thoughts on the concept of six degrees of separation and how it triggered the birth of Did you know he first thought the notion of six degrees was going to go away? Well, I’m glad he was wrong, because his website and what he’s doing is awesome. Check out the “What’s the NEXT BIG IDEA?” challenge on his page … which brings us back to Stanford. In his first challenge to Stanford students, he encouraged them in a competition to share their ideas on advancing great causes across America and beyond. The three finalists presented live at the event and the winner was announced at the end of the evening. What did they win? An opportunity to turn their idea into reality in collaboration with Kevin Bacon and the Six Degrees team. Pretty cool, I thought.

Next up was Jennifer Aaker, who offered some great advice to the audience. It was interesting to see similarities between her advice for social good and the advice we give to our social practitioners in the business world. She recommended that you run your cause like a corporation:

  1. Focus on a single, clear goal: Keep it simple.
  2. Reverse the rules: Think about how others might address the challenge and do the opposite.
  3. Tell a good (truthful) story: Connect with people on an emotional level.
  4. Design for collaboration: Spend enough time on planning for network effects and enable others to act by creating a clear and simple call to action.

She found that causes and brands were successful when these four pillars were coordinated and when the core idea had deep meaning. These basic concepts are not all that different from the business world, are they? Whether we are doing social media for social good or for a corporation, we need to keep in mind that our actions should always be driven by our higher-level (in our case, business) objectives and not by the number of fans or followers we want to accumulate during our program. And once we have fans and followers, how we engage with them becomes critical.

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