"Social media has dramatically empowered people. And I believe that people are fundamentally good and will use this power to make the world a better place."
I’ve read books about businesses doing well by doing good and I’ve read books about the rise of social media. This is the first book that shows how the two are intrinsically interlinked. Social media will reward those businesses and people who are socially responsible and remove those who aren’t.
In Who Cares Wins (such a clever title, don’t you think!) David Jones shows us how social media will help propel the Purpose Economy we have entered.
Do you remember Milton Friedman’s assertion in the 1970s that business’s only responsibility is to maximize profits for shareholders? Or perhaps you better remember Gordon Gekko’s speech to the shareholders in the movie Wall Street, where he argued: “Greed is good.” Jones asserts that this approach to business is now obsolete.
The erosion of Friedman’s argument has evolved naturally, enabled by our growing interconnection, spurred by the economic meltdown and as well as a widening acknowledgement of the plight of our planet and people.
Seize the opportunity to out-behave your competition
""The true cost of the pursuit of profit for profit’s sake is too high""
Let’s look back briefly before we look forward. The financial meltdown accelerated the move toward social responsibility. The world saw in vivid colour that the ruthless pursuit of profit at all costs led to the almost total collapse of the global financial and economic system.
Like all change, it has come in phases. Jones divided the change as follows.
1990-2000: The Age of Image
Communication messages were designed to alter the image of a business. The Dilbert cartoon summarizes it best with: “We didn’t do it to help the planet. We did it to look like the sort of company that cares about that sort of thing.”
2000 – 2010: The Age of Advantage
Some of the smarter leaders and companies realized that they could gain genuine advantage from truly delivering on the promises to do good.
2010 – now: The Age of Damage
In this era, those companies who do not become socially responsible will suffer damage.
Which phase is your business in?
Most business leaders today ‘get it’ that ‘profit for profit’s sake’ is no longer the key to sustainable success. Most ‘get it’ that doing well and doing good are no longer mutually exclusive. And for those who don’t get it, social media has empowered the public with the ability to teach them – by supporting or bringing down businesses who are slow to comply.
So what type of person is leading your organization? One who:
- makes it happen
- watches it happen
- wakes up too late and wonders what happened?
"If I had to pick one word to use as the guideline for running a business in this new era, it would be ‘transparency’."
In the past, the people with the most power were the ones who had the most information. Clearly, the tables have now turned. Information is now everywhere and accessible to everyone. People who have the most power are the ones who share the most.
Social media is forcing doors to be open that before were shut. Key stakeholders now have access to unprecedented amounts of information about you and your actions. And with social media they have the power to bring you down or lift you up.
One of my favourite examples of the power of social was the man who single handedly exposed BP during the oil spill crisis. During the height of the oil spill drama a Twitter account posing as @BPGlobalPR began tweeting sardonic messages. It highlighted BP’s ham-fisted approach to the crisis with posts that went global in mere seconds such as:
‘Safety is our primary concern. Well, profits, then safety. Oh, no – profits, image, then safety, but still, it’s right up there.’
The spoof posts had 190,000 followers while BP’s official Twitter account had just 18,000 followers. This meant that anytime BP was searched online, the first results seen were the damning condemnations of BP. They lost over half their value in just two weeks following the spill, going from over $60 a share to under $30.
Leroy Stick, the author of the tweets made it vividly clear that social media can be used as a virtual stick that consumers can and will use to punish misbehaving companies.
Consumers are driving businesses to be more socially responsible. While consumers understand that profit is the outcome, they want to know the purpose behind your business.
The consequences of not doing good when you do well has dire consequences in this world of radical transparency where people find out everything about you/your company/brand and share it with one another.
The good news? Jones concurs with other leading authors of our time that rather than just doing good because it’s the right thing to do, you will actually make more money and be a more profitable business in the long run if you do! (See Jim Stengel’s research in Grow.)
"One of the key questions everyone should be asking themselves today is, ‘Who could I collaborate and work with to get better results?"
The best brains are often outside your company. Collaborate with consumers, with professionals, with employees, with other companies and even with competitors.
In the pharma industry in which I work, there is a strong movement afoot to collaborate with patients. In fact, 81% of pharma executives believe focusing on the patient is key to future profitability.
Companies like Unilever and Nestlé are working in cooperation with NGOs such as Greenpeace to source sustainable palm oil. In years past, that type of collaboration would have made front-page news. Today, it is merely an everyday marker of the shape of things to come. This new, less defensive, more open mindset will become more and more common.
In the future, it will be the people who share the most, rather than the ones who try to keep control and restrict information flow who will be the most influential.
Imagine a world where the path to becoming successful, happy and rich is from helping people and doing good.
Social media is creating what Jones believes will be a bigger transformation for business than the arrival of television.
At the end of the day, we can either embrace the new world of social media and be open, transparent and collaborative (and in so doing, be more successful) or stand by and watch others use the power of social media to force us to be.
How are you and your company embracing social media to collaborate and be transparent?