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Trends, commentary, and insightful rants from the bleeding edge of advertising, content & branding.

Social Media and the New Social Responsibility

givingIt’s one of those trends clients are tired of hearing us drone on about – that one of the most social (and if you must, “viral”) activities companies and brands can practice is cause related marketing.  And conversely, non-profit brands and corporate social responsibility are intensely digital/social propositions. The reality is  that given the state of the economy more people and families than ever find themselves on the roles of the unemployed and subsequently more “in need” than ever before.  And, honestly, it’s this state of affairs that presents brands or NGOs or CSR departments with an opportunity to make a deeper emotional connection with their consumers/stakeholders.

Brands, like people, are increasingly being judged by what they do and not simply what they say in advertisements.  The upside of being held to this higher standard is that those brands that deliver are rewarded with greater consumer commitment than mere :30 television ads could have purchased.  You combine this shift in consumer approval of action over “advertisement” with digitally driven succession of control to consumers and you’re left with a pretty powerful sweet spot.  A sweet spot where brands that invite consumers into a conversation “win,” and brands that invite consumer into a conversation and having something meaningful to say (hello causes) “really win.” Why? Because a conversation that matters is one that you’ll invite your friends to participate in and not feel guilty about.

There’s also the Obama effect. The ability of technology or social media to efficiently aggregate inputs (comments, conversations, contributions.)  This is the ability to go beyond even the accumulation of checks from individuals into the rarefied realm of micro-gifts or micro-payments on a social media platform and make them cost effective and meaningful.

Who’s doing it right? Well, one platform that gives brands an easy way out is Facebook.  What’s that you say? You’re tired of hearing about FB, well deal with it, because I can count on one hand the number of brands that are doing it right. And of those most have a cause/charity related component or angle at some point. To wit:

“Feeding America.” Amazingly strong and consistent voice on FB, and online in general.  In the sea of so many dead brand pages that never update and never talk to their “fans” let along consumers, this NGO stands out as a brand that has strong social media presence. By the way a presence they maximize with clever applications and extensions – see “bread art” and the Kraft “Feeding America” challenge as good examples of social media in action.  The FB app “Causes” remains one of their most consistently powerful platforms for brand calls to action. See “Ben & Jerry’s.”

Great. You’re intrigued but wonder what’s next? What to do now? Well, one thing we like to do is peer a few minutes (let’s call it five) into the future. Why five? Because any further and it’s not useful to those of us who need to generate action (sales, interest, activity etc.) TODAY.  So, five minutes out, here’s what we see:

Branded micro-blogging. Think Twitter but cooler, faster, stronger.  How about a private “tweetspace” where volunteers or contributors speak up about or around a particular event.  Or how about a public tweestpace that’s branded/customized to a particular company or cause, where tweets from anyone who cares or contributes shows up.  What a powerful way to track cause engagement (and btw brand engagement.)  Yes, Twitter has already been engaged to drive charity, but social technology that helps brands and their causes both benefit is still virgin territory.

Cause Communities. Friendfeed for the charity set. Imagine a private social net or even a branded FB page where content from everyone touching a particular cause is aggregated.  Think video feeds from the organic farm you sponsor in Mexico, or micro posts from the youth volunteers in NYC mashed up with the corporate blog about the entire program. Cool.

Do Better Now. Like I said before. Very few brands have their FB geography in order let along the things that are five minutes into the future. I’d argue for getting that online territory sorted first.  Get your FB or Tumblr or whatever page/community sorted properly and integrated with your corporate assets and launch from there. By the way…call us if you need help with this!

There’s a reason casuse marketing has exploded at the same time that the web is becoming more social.  While there’s some concern about the potential for mis-application. As the level of chatter increases it’s harder to filter out the good stuff.  Those brands that are clearly aligned with the good stuff – products and also causes they support will tend to rise to the top of the global conversation. For deeper discussions about how social media can amplify your cause marketing please connect with us at mat@supergeniusllc.com or wbc@supergeniusllc.com.

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Super Genius LLC is a digital media and creative incubator that excels at bringing fresh, new thinking to existing strategy as well as blank-page strategic development. Our mission is to open up unique and exciting ways of connecting brands and consumers.

"The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet." William Gibson

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