Purpose isn’t broken but it needs fixing

With trust in companies and unbridled capitalism falling to global lows, there needs to be a rethink of purpose, and social media can help.

Disenfranchising citizens has destroyed shareholder value

Corporate foyers and reports are littered with Purpose. Close your eyes and they may all sound equally devoid of connection to real life, but never-the-less they exist and some firms are good at using them for motivation and clarity.

However, even the best fail the “what’s in it for us” which society is now starting to demand.

From the greed of banking, to the laissez-faire attitude of Facebook to our personal privacy, to the rapidly escalating realisation that climate change is a dire existential threat, people everywhere are questioning the ethics of business.

Purpose 2.0

Sixty years ago companies were content to boast that their mission was “to make profits”. As the old school of Board members were awoken from the desk by restless shareholders they tripped over Jack Welch and his manna from heaven – “maximising shareholder value”. This has been their salvation – until now.

Today society is demanding more, and the leading companies are cognisant and responding. They realise that Purpose must include earning a “license to operate” from the whole community, and a commitment to future generations. For example:

  • Microsoft’s advocacy for a Digital Geneva Convention, an agreement that would seek to prevent acts of war in the cyber realm from affecting innocent citizens;
  • DXC Technology’s commitment to developing employment opportunities for people on the autism spectrum; and,
  • BHP’s commitment to working with customers to limit Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions are each outstanding examples of a more inclusive Purpose.

In particular, BHP’s Scope 3 declaration sets a radical new precedent across the mining industry and threatens to split the industry bodies. On the one side are the now “traditionalists” who say that how customers use their products is none of their business and not their responsibility. This is the “gun lobby” approach. On the other side is BHP, whose CEO stated that he, and the Company, owe it to all of our children to leave the earth a better place.

What role does social media play in all this?

For one thing, social media has been the catalyst for much of this debate about a wider Purpose, and certainly about climate change. In the absence of social media, firms would still be fixated on maximising shareholder value.

But what we really want to hone in on here is how the progressive corporations can use social media to support their wider Purpose.

Clearly, social media monitoring provides insights, the ability to engage, the early warnings of where weaknesses are appearing, and the ability to celebrate results.

  • In order for company leaders to think through the role that living their purpose can play outside the company they best be informed – as close to real-time as possible, of what the community and activist groups are thinking. A well developed social media monitoring and analysis set-up can provide these insights.
  • Leaders can develop and share their own purpose stories. Sharing them to the best audience at the best time requires knowing what topics are being actively discussed, by whom, and in what context and sentiment. This means that a strong social media monitoring and analytics capability is needed to underwrite the effectiveness of sharing.
  • On Purpose actions can and should be celebrated in social media, whether internal or external. In fact, in the ever-widening scope and impact of the greater Purpose instances of purposeful actions will arise from far and wide. If a company is not monitoring and capturing such events and sharing and amplifying them, then they are committing the most basic business sin of not maximising their return on investment.
  • Being ever mindful of the dynamic world in which we now live, even the most-well intended plans can go awry and preparation is essential.  This is especially true as a wider more inclusive Purpose touches more and more people. Just as we have a heightening awareness of cybersecurity in the Boardroom, the need to actively monitor brand-related activities across social media will become ever more important with “Purpose 2.0”.

Implementing Purpose 2.0 effectively almost demands that firms embed a strong social media strategy into the overall Purpose 2.0 Vision.

Social media listening is needed to support and ongoing understanding of popular discourse and to be alerted to outliers, variations and new sentiments. Social media engagement is needed as part of the wider Purpose 2.0 engagement process and as one of the key means for celebrating success.

How effective is your social media strategy in supporting Purpose 2.0?

Contact Us for social media audits, strategy, social customer care, and for augmentation of your customer experiences enhanced by social data – and to help you plan and execute your content management strategy, and if you are looking to build an effective social media strategy in support of Purpose 2.0.

—– Walter Adamson
LinkedIn /adamson

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