Making nice: Social media and its big impact on big business

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Steffan Postaer is executive creative director of gyro, San Francisco

One of the biggest effects social media has had on B2B marketers is in the way it has cajoled (or in some cases coerced) big companies into behaving like groups of like-minded people instead of faceless, corporate entities. Fact is, it is no longer feasible for corporations to maintain a pretentious fa├žade. It's too easy for the world to see inside. And if the inside of a company does not match its outsides (i.e., marketing image) this creates a level of conflict potentially ruinous to the firm.

Yet, big companies are reluctant to let go of old ideas. It's not in their conservative natures to do so. Especially when it comes to public relations. Or controlling the message. Transparency is uncomfortable. Businesses do not want to reveal their proprietary secrets –the Secret Sauce! Nor do they want myriad internal debates and/or dysfunction made public, i.e., a bumbling CEO or a battling board of directors.

Frankly, nobody likes exposure. Even when it's positive it makes people nervous. But once firms accept the two-way glass, much good can come of it. For them and for the communities they reside in. For example, in the b-to-c world, fast-food marketers have had to own up to their unhealthy menus and provide nutritious alternatives, whether they wanted to or not. In reality, these good-for-you items have, in many cases, become highly profitable: This is a victory for all parties.

Another example comes from corporate giant Kraft Foods. Perhaps feeling internal and external pressures, some years ago the company began embracing social causes, in particular those aimed at reducing hunger. Now Kraft spends countless millions of dollars on behalf of Feed the World and other such organizations.

Doing good is the new mantra. For obvious reasons, marketers are compelled to talk about doing these good deeds. While it does shroud the altruism in a self-serving aura, so what? The deeds are getting done. Heightened social conscience of corporations is a good thing. A great thing! But it likely would not have occurred – certainly not as quickly – without the relentless peer pressure that social media brings to the equation.>

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