Every time a conference agenda mentions Facebook, eyes light up—or roll, according to who is reading it.
On Day 2 of BCCCC's annual conference, Making the Connection, the CEO of Causes, the philanthropic partner of Facebook was the superstar. Wearing a three-piece suit to an event where the other panelists showed up in more casual attire, Joe Green was not only the surprise element for the morning's keynote plenary but also the youngest—and most entrepreneurial—speaker there by many measures.
First off: what is Causes and who is Joe Green:
Facebook & Causes
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, which called Green one of technology's best young entrepreneurs:
While his former Harvard roommate, Mark Zuckerberg, was off running Facebook, Joe Green was busy studying and drumming up online support for the causes he found most compelling. As an organizer, Green's main hurdle was getting do-gooders to raise consciousness about a cause among friends and their social network. So when Facebook made it easier for outside developers to build applications for its site, Green saw the opportunity.
Causes is known most famously for helping smaller nonprofits attract campaigning and the support that they otherwise could not afford. Green's philosophy of "equal opportunity," has been successful, with Causes raising more than $2 million in the first year since launching in May, 2007. Today that figure stands at $40 million.
The Power of Social Media (mostly Facebook)
And Green was at the BCCCC conference to discuss the power of social media (mostly Facebook—as Chris Jarvis tweeted, Joe Green is nowhere to be found on Twitter) and how companies can best adopt the channel to do good and build positive brand awareness.
After taking the attendees through a historical tour of how Causes came about—he was Mark Zuckerberg's roommate at Harvard, etc.—Green threw out some statistics:
- •In 1998, there were 65 million internet users in the U.S.—that's 24 percent of all Americans online.
- •In 2011, there are 230 million internet users in the US alone—75 percent of the population.
His argument? Consumers are no longer passive but "active producers."
The idea of "community" has evolved radically to today's "social network," he continued. "And Facebook represents this online identity for most people. It provides real validation."
Facebook Provides Validation…
Green also made fun of the "Happy Birthday" feature on Facebook, calling it social media's Christmas. "You're being wished by anyone and everyone. You're loving it, you're the center of attention, you're validated. Your life is worthy," he commented.
How does Causes fit in?
That is the real—and hidden—power of social networks, said Green. "The opportunity these provided for companies and individuals to create identities and then use them to pursue and advocate for what you believe in is endless," adding, "[These channels] give you the chance to authentically engage people on things that matter the most."
"They are also massively viral. Without social networks, you're not the coolest thing on the Christmas list, and you're getting any bite."
…But also Conflicts
Green's analogies, while sarcastic and playful, sat well with most attendees. The problem? A majority of companies do not allow social media access to their employees, creating a tough quandary for CSR and community relations executives.
As one attendee quipped, "The trouble is that if we're partnering with this great nonprofit to drive employee volunteering, they want to blast the initiative on all these social media networks. But our employees are not allowed on YouTube or Facebook, even if it is to promote the great stuff we are doing as a company!"
A conflict for sure, but as Jarvis and many other avid users like Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn continue to emphasize, social media is an "extension of human relationships" and not a channel to blast information through.
Social media isn't a loudspeaker but a two-way communication forum. And for companies who continue to strictly regulate their employees' online presence, adaptability is inevitable.
We're already starting to see different forms of social media policies spring up at companies. Here's the thing: We are all on social media and whether you like it or not we are talking.
The difference: You can lead the dialogue and benefit from it or ignore the conversations and face the consequences. As a corporate citizen, which side would you rather be?
In Defense of Twitter: Why Social Media Works For Me
ABC News: An Interview with Joe Green
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The Conference Junkie: Are You Preaching to the Converted?
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