"What if social media was actually about social impact?"

by Aman Singh Das | March 19, 2010

  • My Vault

Social media. The minute you say it, a conversation springs up, regardless of where you are, who you are with and what you might be discussing. Whether we like it or not, social media is the current rage and several ROIs have been charted up as well for the non-believers. Vault.com's Phil Stott, recently wondered whether social media is key to your career success? So why hasn't anyone thought of applying the immense power of social media to furthering sustainability? Of course, Greenpeace is a good example of the environmental movement, but how do we apply this to corporate governance?

Valerie Casey, the founder and director of Designer's Accord, an organization that works internationally to create positive social and environmental impact was one of the keynote speakers at South by Southwest, the popular interactive music and film festival which was held last week (like every year) in Austin, Texas. And in her address, Casey posed an interesting question to the audience, "What if social media was actually about social impact?"

Thought leaders and advocates have for long tried to use this argument, but for the first time, it was posed to an audience of creative directors, musicians, strategists and interactive developers. People who work in the "virtual" world and ensure social media works. And her reason for targeting this audience was simple: If we get our creators and developers, the backbone of our strategies and web models and analytics, thinking about corporate responsibility, the integration of CSR and sustainability as long term resolutions will happen much faster than leaving it to PR and marketing personnel.

Correctly pinpointing the problem, Casey blamed our siloed approach of solving problems, adding, "Rarely are industries, silos or other groups able to take on such challenges. The Interactive community has 'systems thinking' in its blood." And hit the nail on the head in her next sentence, "So often, groups make excuses because a task falls outside of their expertise." Amen to that. We see this every day in our professional and personal lives, because it is easier to say no to something that doesn't perfectly fit our job description than have to agree to take on the challenge and make it work.

Smartbrief editor, Rebecca Pollack, captured Casey's sentiment well: "...these systems thinking skills are necessary to help us look at environmental, sustainability, cultural and social issues with a fresh perspective. We bring creativity and optimism. We can be the bridge to the other communities." How many of us who consider ourselves on the creative side of the company, or the integral systems thinkers will take this to heart? Remember, how Wikipedia came about? If enough people agree on the importance of something, they have the collective power and the viral nature of social media to make it work. And if this group happens to be the ones responsible for ensuring our tweets, facebooking, linkedin and stumbling (Stumble!) work, they can make wonders happen!

If you came here through any one of the media I just mentioned, you know the strength of viral media. How would you use this virtual power to spread the green word so it reaches corporate board rooms and executive suites? If you could, would you ensure more MBA candidates sign up for CSR courses, so that sheer numbers make it impossible for recruiter to ignore this necessary expertise? Have your say! Leave us a comment, write to In Good Company or follow us on Twitter @Vault CSR.

Filed Under: CSR

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