On a recent flight to Denver I was laying out a social media plan, and for some reason it struck me how much I really like social media and the reason why. It’s because when it comes to the critical role that big companies will need to play in making the world a better place, these channels of communication are really the only things that are outside the control of the corporate command-and-control structure.
But why, after years of working with social media, did this realization suddenly dawn on me? Maybe it had something to do with the way that certain key concepts kept finding their way into the plan I was devising – like the emphasis on things being authentic as opposed to synthetic, real instead of phony, fun and pliable rather than rigid, “off the cuff” versus scripted, or actual instead of acted. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.
And then I began thinking about some of the successful individuals who have taken on a cause, created a new web site, started blogging, signing up followers, and who practically overnight have a created a contingency of people capable of evoking change. Check out the Food Babe sometime when you get a chance — she is now feared by big food companies and even consulted on new brands that are trying to make a difference. And that’s just one example of how independent social media can be used to bring about major changes in corporate policy.
So how can you help in making sure big companies across the globe take on the issues in which they can be an intrinsic part of the solution, whether it involves sustainability or the health of the people? That they eliminate things from our diet like trans fats, toxic dyes, MSG, and aspartame that are contributing to so many health problems? That they find safer substitutes for chemicals like the fire retardants put in the very airline seats I routinely sit in, as well as the car seat your child or grandchild travels in? That we curtail the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides by planting more organic crops, which is also one of the best ways we can help to avert a global warming crisis?
The best way to not only start such discussions, but to keep them going and make sure the top brass of the big consumer product companies are made privy to the conversation, is to conduct them on social media – especially when a company invites comments about its products. Once this occurs, enterprises that have traditionally been insulated from consumer concerns have no choice but to become engaged in genuinely meaningful dialogue regarding them.
Thanks to tools like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Tumbler and Pinterest, the public can finally directly address the policies and practices of these once untouchable corporations on matters like the safety and advisability of product ingredients. And company executives who once could rely on their PR and ad agencies to craft euphemistic and vague terminology that enabled them to evade such issues must now become far more responsive to the demands of the people who actually buy their products.
In fact, I can’t help wondering how many CEOs of major brands are now making a habit of scanning social media in order to get an idea of how the “outside world” really views them.