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Social Media Means Certain Death of the Greed is Good Paradigm

Almost everyone in business has heard the name Ivan Boesky. The character of Gordon Gecko in Wall Street was loosely based on him and his Greed is Good philosophy of business and life.

There's no arguing that Boesky was good at what he did. He was that guy who'd go in and take over failing companies, fire everyone, re-structure then sell at enormous profit. There was very little room for emotion or even humanity in the actions of his company. 

He was one of the first businessmen to attain celebrity status as he preached his Greed is Good mantra to generations of business students all eager to lap up anything that would give them that killer edge.

There are still people in business today who live by this philosophy. They believe that chasing down the almighty buck is the American dream and shouldn't be trifled with. 

Hey, how's that workin' out for you Don Blankenship, CEO at Massey Energy?

Lucky for us there is a new business model in town. One that considers Boesky's 20 year old attitude to be not only antiquated but actually contrary to our nature as human beings.

In his book, Born to Be Good, social scientist Dacher Keltner has researched just what the Greed is Good paradigm has done to generations of people. How we have been raised to believe that attaining that competitive edge by disregarding the needs of our fellow man (woman) would ultimately lead to success.

Instead Keltner suggest that a "meaningful life" is akin to a successful life and that our lives cannot have meaning without some part of us thinking of the greater good. 

Ok, now that the groundwork is there I'll let you in on how Keltner's book and some Darwin-ist philosophy have come together to create a new business model that will make Boesky-type success look so reprehensible that no one in their right mind would seek it out. 

Here's how it all comes together. According to Keltner, if you want to be successful in business and in life, you will need to stop thinking about "what's in it for me?" and start thinking about "what can I do for you?". In serving the greater good you will develop an authenticity that is missing from the greed model. Your customers will trust you to steer them in the right direction. You will create a stronger bond that will, in turn, create a larger return customer base. 

So where does Darwin come in? Keltner contends that most historians and social scientists have missed a major point that Darwin brought to light; we, as humans, are ultimately sympathetic beings. We want to help others and, when we do, we feel good. We feel fulfilled, we feel successful and appreciative and are...wait for it...HAPPY.

I know it sounds a bit hippy-esque but anyone that says they don't want to be happy is lying. No one wants to be miserable and happy people do more for society.  

The great thing about social media and its application is that in order to play in the social media sandbox one must leave the greed is good idea behind. No one cares how great you say your company is. No one cares how many cars you sold. The "toot your own horn" era is over, at least in the online space.

If your site is not providing value to your visitors, authentic value, then you are not going to keep them there or get them back. But your competition will. You can bet on it. 

As consumers continue to use the internet for their number one source of information, authenticity and accountability will be held in the highest regard. Making sure your social media game plan encompasses that will be the difference between a successful campaign and a lame one like, I dunno, BP?

The Social Media Canada site is dedicated to helping people figure out what they need to create a social media strategy. All of the elements are there, for free, for anyone. The result of giving away this information is a consistently increasing client-base. 

Join The Conversation

  • socialmedia-canada's picture
    Feb 6 Posted 6 years ago socialmedia-canada

    Thanks Sherry!

    I'm interested in the book and will go take a look in the a/m. I'm always very keen to learn what people think about social media and how it relates to social scientific research. 


  • Feb 4 Posted 6 years ago Sherry Heyl (not verified)

    Yes, social media seems to have changed the game of business from one of selfishness to one of giving. At least that is what I thought  5 years ago when I started evangelizing social media. As I have watched more and more brands and agencies integrate social media into their business I have seen the purity of social media fade away as social media becomes another type of cattle prod. Not that it has not changed and does not continue to change how business is conducted, but it is more about people changing now that they have the tools to do things differently. I have been working on my book about how social media will change people and those thoughts can be found at

  • socialmedia-canada's picture
    Feb 4 Posted 6 years ago socialmedia-canada

    I hope you're wrong Ron. Have you ever heard of b corporations? There's a site dedicated to companies that have written this new philosophy into their business model and have done very well with it.

    I think as we begin to see large, successful companies insist on socially conscious behaviour more and more will come to the table. 

    Take Lululemon for example. A multi-million dollar company that makes and sells ethically-produced yoga gear. Lululemon has a company mandate that insists on giving value first and profit second only their profit statements are insanely healthy.

    There are a lot of other companies like that too. I think you could even make a case for motor company Ford who did not look for a federal handout when all of their competitors did. What was the result of Ford's action? Arguably Ford has come out on top, estimated to be worth about 39% more than GM prior to GM's IPO in Dec. (and GM took the bailout)

    But more importantly than valuation, Ford built trust in their customers and lasting relationships were forged.

    So I'm going to disagree with you a bit and say that I think the wave has begun and there's no holding back a wave. Especially one that makes you feel good AND improves the bottom line.  :)

  • RonHeimbecher's picture
    Feb 4 Posted 6 years ago RonHeimbecher

    Like a number of other people, I'm sure, I would like to agree with your premise, and I do think that it will eventually come to pass. But we're a lot of years away, I'm afraid. Too much of social media today glorifies the bling, lifestyle, and perceived benefits that greed brings to the table.

    It's going to be a while, yet, before running a large company evolves beyond comparing "equipment" at the urinal divider in the executive washroom.

    Until then, the focus will continue to be bigger caves in the Hamptons, shinier wheels, and longer boats... (compensation for lack of length elsewhere, perhaps?)

    Only slightly tongue-in-cheek...


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