Creating Shared Value
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Social media platforms provide a powerful way for business to create what is known as “shared value” – a business strategy that simultaneously advances a firm’s interests, while also advancing the economic and social health of the communities in which that business operates. This approach to interaction with the public at large promises businesses and other organization the capacity to strengthen brand image by taking a proactive role within local communities.
The notion of “shared value” is one of reciprocal benefits: a business or organization seeks to enrich a community, while the business or organization benefits from improved publicity and recognition. This approach to relations with the communities in which a business operates is a key part of establishing noteworthiness for responsible business management – which today, is in and of itself a selling point for many consumers.
Businesses have long used various forms of media in order to create shared value, though the casual observer might not even realize this whenever they encounter it. For instance, it isn’t unusual for businesses within a given community to make appearances on local television or radio shows to offer insight and advice about a wide range of topics. For example: in the latter weeks of the Summer of 2012, many parts of the United States encountered an alarming number of cases of the West Nile virus. Who do news organizations turn to? Aside from public health officials, you can bet that news organizations were using doctors from local hospitals and clinics in order to provide an authoritative “voice” regarding precautions to avoid infection, and which symptoms to be on the lookout for. Though most members of the community might receive this information in a fairly passive and contemplative manner, the healthcare professionals that offer their time to provide information to the public via these traditional media outlets are helping create shared value between their respective brands, and the community at large. The community benefits from improved public health, and the local hospitals and clinics
a.) Improve their image by improving brand visibility,
b.) Hopefully reduce infection rates in the community, so that community members continue to patronize their services (as opposed to dying), and
c.) Protect the quality of their own treatment metrics (after all – no hospital administrator wants to deal with in influx of West Nile cases, since this will inevitably lead to less-than-desirable mortality statistics).
Likewise, social media presents a good avenue for this kind of interaction with local communities. For instance, a great way for smaller firms that specialize in providing services to reach the community is to establish a social media presence, which is used as a funnel to drive traffic to their web sites. Social media platforms can be used to answer quick questions about the nature of their services, or as a means to distribute snippets of sound advice to present and potential customers. For instance, consider a small financial planning firm. Once they have a sound number of followers on a platform like Twitter or Facebook, the firm can use social media to drum up interest in a blog maintained on the company site, where general questions about finances are answered by an employee at the firm. While the advice obviously can’t be extremely specific, it can provide general advice that several members of the local community might benefit from. If the firm cultivates enough regular traffic, they should be able to use this tactic as a means to convert readers into customers.
In addition, social media is a powerful means for a company to help promote its more traditional efforts to create shared value. Though ideally, shared value improves the community (and thereby the company, through myriad indirect and direct means), firms are arguably losing out on a powerful marketing opportunity if the community is mostly unaware of the firm’s efforts to help improve the local quality of life. Even the most grand of community events sponsored by a firm will manage to go unnoticed by some within the community – but social media can help ensure that more individuals have a chance to find out about what a firm is doing for the benefit of local people and organizations.