Lately, a lot has been written about how businesses are using social media to promote social good. Most of the attention has focused on the campaigns of large companies like Pepsi or Pedigree. While the success of those campaigns warrants exposure, small local businesses have also begun using social media to create positive change in their communities.
Below are some examples of how small businesses are investing in social good to partner with non-profits, raise funds and finance micro-loans.
If your company is raising awareness for non-profits through social media, let us know about your work in the comments below.
1. Catherine Zadeh: Partnering with Non-Profits
In 2008, high-end jewelry designer Catherine Zadeh learned that a childhood friend had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. To raise money and awareness, Zadeh fashioned a bracelet, which to her surprise raised over $60,000 for the family of her friend. Emboldened by the success of her first fundraiser, Zadeh steadily expanded her charitable work. Today she produces bracelets for 18 charities and for every piece the charity sells, Zadeh donates 30 percent of the proceeds to that charity.
Zadeh, who runs her business with the help of just two assistants, said she uses her own Twitter and Facebook accounts to keep her customers updated about her work and philanthropic efforts, but she’s found social media most useful for amplifying the company's message via her audience. “It’s exponential,” Zadeh explained. “I have so many people in my database and maybe 10 are interested (in a product), but when the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International retweets about a bracelet, then all their followers know about it.”
2. Busam Automotive: Raising Funds Creatively
With so many businesses now using Facebook and Twitter, setting your company apart online has become more difficult. This was the predicament facing Busam Automotive, a Cincinnati auto dealership that sponsors an annual campaign for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a foundation that promotes breast cancer research.
“When we began to plan the fundraiser we thought: how can we take this kinda boring run of the mill sponsorship and make it kinda cool and different,” said Busam Business Development Manager Andrew Shipp. The solution: creative social media tactics.
For every retweeted picture of a Busam vehicle (like this one), Busam pledged to donate $1 to the foundation. In addition, the dealership promised $10 off on an oil change and a free ticket to a charity fashion show for anyone who checked into Busam’s Nissan branch on Foursquare.
3. SRSCI: Promoting a Company Philosophy
Jorge Fonseca Mata of the Finca Fonseca coffee farm, the largest coffee plantation in San Rafael, Costa Rica
For some small businesses, like the San Rafael Sustainable Coffee Initiative (SRSCI), social good is built into the DNA of the company. The SRSCI, a joint venture between Costa Rican coffee farmers and processing plants in the small community of San Rafael, uses micro-loans to grow the local economy while connecting growers with drinkers. The big idea behind the SRSCI is to cut out the middlemen. If customers order directly from farmers, farmers maximize their profit, thereby growing the local economy. The SRSCI also encourages (but does not require) customers to invest in a micro-loan to fund the next year’s crop.
“For the consumer, that actual connection supplies a need in the market place for those who want to know the farmer and where their daily cup originates,” said Kenneth Lander, one of SRSCI’s founders. “For the farmer, that actual connection places the farmer and the farming community first in line to receive 100 percent benefit from the sale of roasted coffee.”
Since most of SRSCI’s customers are aboard, Twitter and Facebook are useful for connecting customers with growers. “These tools are the key to this relationship,” Lander said. “The direct effect is creating a relationship that allows the farmer and the farming community to flourish and continue to serve the consumer directly in the future.”
Since the SRSCI was created in June 2010 they’ve received 111 micro-loans and sold over 900 pounds of roasted coffee. That translates into $9,000 for the local economy. While that may not sound like much, Lander stressed that under the conventional system 900 pounds typically nets just $351 in profit for the farmers.
Social Tools to Consider
While Twitter, Facebook and (to a lesser extent) Foursquare are omnipresent, there are other lesser known online tools that small businesses can use to promote social good. Below are three in no particular order.
Bolder is a platform that works with businesses interested in inspiring individuals to do what’s best for society. On Bolder’s website, businesses challenge individuals to do things like ditch bottled water for a day or bike to work. In exchange the business provides an incentive, which is usually a discount or freebie.
For the particularly activist-minded business, Act.ly is a new platform for starting an online petition via Twitter. Individuals or businesses can tweet at someone requesting that they act on an issue. The initial request appears as a tweet and its success depends on subsequent retweets.
I Shop 4 Microfinance makes it easy for online customers to donate to micro-finance foundations. Customers simply have to sign up and then shop. Four percent of all purchases are donated and, best of all, there's no additional cost to the customer.
Image courtesy of Flickr, spaceageboy and SRSCI