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Social Media Can Accelerate the Social Good

February 13, 2012 - 2 Comments

Recently, I participated in a conversation with our LinkedIn community on The crux of the discussion was labels–should there be a universal taxonomy for terms such as Global Education, and would trying to foster global adoption of such terms speed up the transformation of the societal challenges we face today? It got me thinking about all sorts of terms that pop into our language stream. One day you’re talking about the “inequalities of the distribution of wealth and the effects of taxation on global markets;” the next day you’re texting an associate and summing up your thought stream with the word “Occupy”.

In my preparation for a panel discussion called Why enterprise Social Media Loves Social Good?, I poked around online to see if there was any consistency in the meaning for the term “social good”. Almost all the discussions and posts I found connected “social good” directly to its use within the business community. While businesses vary in their approaches to social good, this definition seems to be a common one: “A good or service that benefits the largest number of people in the largest possible way. Some classic examples of social goods are clean air, clean water and literacy; in addition, many economic proponents include access to services such as healthcare in their definition of the social or “common good”. (Source:

Given this definition,  it became glaringly obvious to me why social media is no longer a “missing link” to achieving social good. Often in business, when we employ social media, we seek a metrics-driven connection to brand awareness, more customers, and more sales. However, given today’s trends towards transparency– and the potential for rapid backlash against companies seen as “doing wrong”–we must now use social media to foster a customer’s connection between meaningful purpose and his or her decision to make a purchase.

The caveat is that if we are not authentic in our journey with customers, and we do not demonstrate that we “benefit the largest number of people in the largest possible way,” we miss an opportunity to build a long-lasting and trusted relationship with our customers. The stories of Ben & Jerry and Tom’s Shoes are legendary; both companies began their business with the core goal of helping society. But how can other companies, that may have been established and grown in a world where the Sharing Economy did not exist, begin to integrate this new business model?

One approach is to look at corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a core philosophy within the company. A robust CSR agenda inspires action by connecting people to partners and working within a community to foster outcomes that impact everyone. Social media–and the collaborative tools that are evolving–will begin to empower a collective generosity, creativity, and commitment in this connected age.

Interested in learning more? On Tuesday, February 14th, Cisco will be hosting the panel discussion “Social Media for Social Good.” Plan to attend the live event or watch it on the Cisco UStream channel.  Panelists will respond to the #SMWCisco hash tag for audience interaction via U-stream

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  1. iContact is a company dedicated to giving back to the community. In fact, in 2011, employees logged 3,200 volunteer hours, and donated over $200,000 and 800 Free accounts to non-profit organizations. Read all about it here:

  2. Great blog Mary Anne! Looking forward to the conversation…