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Social Purpose – It Matters More Than You Think

What’s your social purpose? In a recent study the Edelman PR group found that 87% of global consumers believe that a business should place at least as much weight on the interest of society as they do on  their interest of business.

Serial entrepreneur Richard Branson pushes forth the idea in his book, Screw Business As Usual, of Capitalism 24902, with 24902 being the circumference of the earth in miles. As businesses, we should be leaving our communities in a better position than before we came part of it. In fact it must be part of our business models to do so, not only for the positive impact on the community but also on our bottom lines.

I know what you may be thinking, why would I want to make money off of doing social good? Good question and one that was answered for us in the afore mentioned study. Of the 8,000 people that were polled, it was found that 76% of people believe it’s okay for a brand to support a social purpose and make money at the same time. That’s up from 57% in 2008!

I’ve written on the subject of social objects before. In brief, a social object is a conversation piece that inherently generates conversation and action around itself. A social object can be a lifestyle, a passion or a cause. For the purpose of this post we’re going to look at social objects as a cause, a cause that has three distinct characteristics:

  1. It’s Conversational: people are having conversations in their living room, at work, and in their online social networks about the cause.
  2. It Brings People Together: people want to be around other people that are connected with the cause. The cause creates community because it brings people together.
  3. It’s Talk Worthy: people feel the desire to tell other people, who may not know about the cause, so that they in turn become part of the cause (community).

The idea here is all about word-of-mouth. A big proponent of what I teach businesses is that if they want their customers talking about them in a positive light, then they must give them something talk-worthy, something that aligns with who they are as a business.

Both customer enchantment and defining a social purpose is the true secret to getting your customers to talk about you in their online social graph. If you do an online contest on Facebook, find a social cause that you can align with. A cause that is conversational, talk-worthy and brings people together.

Think about the big green movement we have going on right now in the United States. It’s certainly conversational, talk-worthy and it brings people together. Auto makers are making vehicles that get better gas mileage and runs off electricity. Airlines are now collecting cans to be recycled, instead of just throwing them away. People are taking notice and because of these initiatives people are taking notice.

For instance you could run a contest, put up $1000 dollars for the winning school and have them collect cans. This is a double whammy of a social purpose, you are helping schools to raise money, while doing something good for the environment. Depending on how this is ran and promoted you could have thousands of people talking about your business both on and off social networks.

Okay, so let’s get right into it then. Why would you want to do this? Besides consumers wanting you to, here are a few more stats from the same study.

  • When quality and price are equal, 53% of people say that social purpose ranks as the most important factor in selecting a brand.
  • 72% of people said they would recommend a brand based off of their social purpose.
  • 71% of people said they would promote a brand based off of their social purpose.
  • 73% of people said they would switch brands based off of their social purpose.

Still feel like you should have a purpose but keep it a secret? 80% of consumers believe it is important for brands to make them aware of their efforts to address societal issues. Why would that be you suppose? It’s because consumers want you to tell them so they can make a decision, based off of your social purpose, if they are going buy your product or service. More and more consumers are praising the brands that support a good cause while at the same time punishing those that don’t.

By developing a strong social purpose and backing a good cause you will be better equipped to build trust, loyalty, and a strong social following. All of that leads to more business, more repeat customers and even a higher level of employee satisfaction. Take a good hard look at what causes your ideal customers are passionate about, then ingrain it into the character of your business. A brand with a strong social purpose is a brand that influences purchase intent. Keep in mind that initiatives such as these aren’t just campaigns but a belief that all employees share, from the CEO all the way down to the entry level employees.

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