Social Capital – The New Measure of Success

Since we have been talking about the new revolution of self-reliance and self-employment and our need to adapt to a fast-changing online and social marketplace, I asked a friend of mine, Simon Mainwaring (a regular FAST COMPANY contributor) to write an exclusive article for us on what he calls The New Measure of Success and how you and I can grow our Social Capital with some specific examples.

Enjoy! -Darren Hardy

Social Capital – The New Measure of Success by guest blogger Simon Mainwaring

Social media is disrupting how businesses need to measure success in the marketplace. Of course, profits still matter, but as consumers connect up in communities and networks through social technologies, they are gaining leverage to pressure companies to think about more than just great products and services.

What they want from business is a better world, not just better widgets.  How does this impact small companies, entrepreneurs, and contractors? The answer is, it affects you the same way it impacts global corporations that seek to powerfully develop and imprint their brands in the consumer’s mind. When it comes to appealing to today’s socially-minded consumers, your company is no different than Nike, Pepsi, or Starbucks in the need to build social capital, not just financial capital.

Social capital refers to the appeal your brand has in your customer’s eyes. It is composed of a mix of respect, shared values, and loyalty. High social capital derives from engaging with your customers in a way that creates a deeper meaning for them, not just selling them products or services.

Here are three key insights and tips for how you can accomplish raise your social capital:

1. Make your brand the chief celebrant of your customers’ community, not its celebrity. In your marketing and advertising, stop thinking of your brand as the center of the universe. Instead, reach out to serve the issues your customers care about. Celebrate how your product or service has helped your community or make an offer to work with your customers (and their customers) to perform some action that benefits an issue that matters to them. Show how your business is committed to creating a better life for people, not just a better bottom line for you. The Dancing Deer Baking Company in Boston is an excellent example of this principle; the company donates 35% of the retail price of one line of its products to help end family homelessness. See LINK

2. Allow your story to become your customer’s story. Today’s consumers love to participate in shaping the image of the companies they deal with. So invite them to do that. Encourage your customers to blog about you (and blog with them), post YouTube videos about your products, and review your company online. Make them equal participants in co-creating your story and reward them for their participation. A great example of this is how Proctor & Gamble asked female bloggers to help them raise awareness of the need for clean drinking water in many areas of the world by blogging the issue. For every person who read each blog and clicked on a special “widget” on the blogger’s site, P&G would donate a bottle of clean water. You can read about this here: See LINK

3. Expand from a customer sales focus into a total service mentality. There is a vast difference in these two manners of thinking. Sales is narrow-minded, short-term, and fixed. Service is broad-based, long-term,

and dynamic. A service mentality includes being willing to do many actions that attract and satisfy your customer, even things like donating to the causes your customers care about, giving your employees time off to volunteer their services in the community, or becoming an active participant in a cause that your customers care about. A good example of this is the story of the company, Guayakì Yerba Mate, which began as a small enterprise whose mission, in addition to profit, was to help restore the South American rainforest. You can read about it here: See LINK

These are among the types of critical shifts any company must make to build social capital that in turn drives profits in today’s new social business marketplace.

Here's your 3-point action plan to increase your social capital:

Step 1: Write out your brand statement. Be sure to define it around your core values and purpose.
Step 2: Engage with authenticity, transparency and accountability. Evaluate each customer touch point to insure you are living and delivering on your brand promise.
Step 3: Act as the chief celebrant of your community, not its celebrity. Make a list of several ways you can recognize and celebrate the beauty of your community.

Simon Mainwaring is the founder of We First, a social branding consultancy that helps companies, non-profits and consumer groups build a better world through changes to the practice of capitalism, branding, and consumerism using social technology. More information how brands can build social capital can be found in his book, We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World (Palgrave/Macmillan, June 2011).  Or visit www.wefirstbook.com

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