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Business is the Problem, Therein Lies the Solution: Defining Your Social Purpose

September 17th, 2011, in Zuccotti Park, located in the Wall Street financial district in New York City a protest movement was born and given the name Occupy Wall Street. While there was a political aspect to the Occupy Wall Street movement we won’t be discussing that here. Instead, I want to bring up the main issue of the movement, which was, in essence, that business is the problem.

I know, I know, business is the problem? Doesn’t business make the world go round? Doesn’t business create jobs and opportunity? Of course it does, but it’s the perception of the “people” that we’re talking about here, the perception that business focuses entirely on the issues of business (i.e. profit) and nothing at all on the issues of society.

Again, I know, I know, business isn’t all about business. I know many companies, as I’m sure that you do, which do a lot of good in their local communities. Take the Premier Automotive Group as an example, and their Hope The Premier Way initiative or their food pantry located in New Orleans that helps families in need, or their other community initiatives. Companies like the Premier Automotive Group have been silently focusing on their local communities without expecting anything in return. Without pointing out all the good they’ve done.

Why? Because what they are doing, and others like them, is following their passions. But, did you know that in a study done by the Edelman PR group 72% of global consumers said they would recommend a brand based off of their social purpose, and 71% said they would promote the brand if they supported a good cause? No? Well, it’s time you know. It’s time that you define and share your social purpose with you community.

How does that look? It doesn’t look like your bragging, it doesn’t look like your saying, look at me, look at me, and now come buy from me. Instead, and I wrote a post on this before titled Creating Social Impact through Social Media, it looks like you’re part of the solution. There is something about shocking the people of your community in a positive way that embeds a positive emotion around your brand, something that creates an associative memory so powerful that a nearly unbreakable bond is formed.

I’m often asked about engagement, as it relates to social networking. It’s a buzzword that’s been around for a while now, one that has been written about and spoken about time and time again. While you can ask a dozen different people and get a dozen different answers here is my answer to the question, “how do you engage your community.”

To truly engage your community you must first seek to understand what they are passionate about, to understand what drives them, to understand what keeps them up at night. Once you know those three things you’re in a better position to align your own social purpose, your own passions and motivations with theirs, in order to create meaningful engagement around mutual passions.

Once you’ve defined you social purpose it’s important to remember that it’s the cause that’s most important, not what you can take away from it, business or otherwise. If your community gets the slightest hint that you’re “passions” are only about yourself then all is lost. And I do mean ALL.

So, what are you passionate about? How can those passions be aligned with the passions of your community? What can you do to get others rallied behind your cause? Why? Because that’s the real secret here and while there is no such thing as a silver bullet when it comes to branding, supporting a good cause and getting others involved in that cause is as close it gets. As long as you focus on things that are bigger than yourself, that’s bigger than all of us, the community will start focus on you. Word-of-mouth will start to grow and customer loyalty will become the norm.

I ask you again, what are you passionate about?

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