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Social Media for Social Good – And What the Business World Needs to Remember

May 13, 2011 - 7 Comments

I went to the #social4good event last night at Stanford which featured guest speakers actor, Kevin Bacon and author of the book “The Dragonfly Effect”, Jennifer Aaker. 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 (no pun intended!) 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 web site 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 students in a competition to share their ideas on advancing great causes across America and beyond. The 3 finalists presented live at last night’s 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 after the heart-wrenching story of Sameer and Vinay, 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 other 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.

In Photo: Jennifer Aaker and Kevin Bacon

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  1. Very interesting article. Social media really is taking over all.

  2. Thank you so much for this thoughtful post! I work at Network for Good and help manage, our initiative with Kevin Bacon. We are so pleased you were able to attend the event and are sharing these insights on using social networking for social good. We’ve been inspired by the students at Stanford and all their ideas to further great social causes and can’t wait to work with the Challenge winner to implement the next big idea on the site. It is truly a small world and we (and our networks) can make a difference.

    • Hi Kate – congratulations on your initiative, such an inspiration. I’m looking forward to seeing these ideas in action!

  3. Truly an inspirational post. Enjoyed reading. Thanks Petra. Social network like facebook, twitter is a great way to spread your business or spread a cause. It is quite surprising when you see increasing number of people becoming fans and sharing the cause with their friends.

    • Yes, it is so heartwarming to see the power of many come together for a good cause!

  4. it’s truly amazing how social media is taking over the world.

    i’ve been using sites such as facebook and twitter for my business but have not tried them out to promote a social cause. These sites are as powerful as any others out there so it definitely makes sense to use them as a platform to be heard.

  5. Great article. Thank you. Love the four points. These are definitely applicable to the sales process when selling IT and Telecommunication solutions. Important to remind people during the sales process to focus on the client’s objectives, take the client’s viewpoint when structuring solutions (How does it solve their problems), great reference stories or applicable vignettes help illustrate the solution value, and collaborate with the client to determine the impact and the meaning of success.