Social media is a weird space these days. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we've found ourselves isolated from most of the interpersonal interaction that we're used to, and focused more on our screens and devices to give us that connection we need. The internet being what it is, and the times we live in being such that we're much more aware of the needs of the people around us, and in our communities, many businesses are moving toward strategies that leverage their online presence in the name of giving back and the greater good.
These new focus points are good, and important to the role our businesses play as corporate citizens, and as community leaders. Many times, however, we see criticism online for the direction businesses will take these well-meaning efforts, and for the perceived priorities behind these decisions.
John Krasinski, one of our favorite actors from The Office, recently started an Instagram Live series called Some Good News. This amazing program focused on the good things people were doing around the world during this pandemic, and even took some huge steps to do some good of its own. Recently, Krasinksi inked a deal to network the show , and received major backlash online for this decision.
So what's the right call? When is doing more really doing too much? When does giving back cross the line into selfishness?
Well, we happen to think Mr. Krasinski deserves every bit of his success, and we also have a few ideas that could help keep your organizations' give-back initiatives on the right track:
1. Keep your motives transparent.
The most discouraging thing to your audience - be they customers, prospects, or listeners - is to feel like the wool is being pulled over their eyes. We live in an internet reality that is full of bait-and-switch schemes, often designed to prey on the best intentions of the user or customer, but really end up just padding the pockets of the organization.
Avoid this insecurity for your audience by being very up front with them, right from the start. If you're putting together a fundraiser, help them understand your connection to the cause. If you're asking for their participation, make sure they can see that you're participating as well. And, if in the process of giving back to a worthy cause, your business stands to grow from the effort, be transparent about that, too! You'll find that your audience often wants you to be successful, they just don't want to feel like you were being shady about it.
2. Do what you say you're going to do.
This can be the single most frustrating thing for an audience, especially if they have bought in or contributed in some way to your give-back efforts. Make that matching donation you promised, and make sure your audience can participate in it somehow. Show up to the 5k you've been advertising for, and have your team run alongside the customers who helped raise funds. Nothing will damage your audience loyalty more than if you don't keep your promises to them. And, nothing will do more to damage their trust in you for the future.
Relationships with your audience are just like any other relationships in your life - they take trust and follow-through. Do what you say you're going to do.
3. Give back to the things your audience cares about.
This one is tricky. Sincerity is everything, especially when it comes to social justice and giving back. But, it's important that when you're asking your audience to engage with your brand in a way that requires their time or resources, you pick a cause that is important to them. Listen to them. Your audience will let you know if they are invested in the efforts you're putting in front of them. And, if they're not, rather than making arbitrary choices or changes, get them involved in the conversation. Engage them, and find out what they want to be a part of. Often, you'll find out that there is a lot of overlap, and common ground isn't difficult to come by.
Making sure that giving back and being a good community partner is essential to your organizational culture is very important. Equally, understanding that your audience may not always share your perspective or understand your motives right away is important, too. One of the best things you can do is to trust them. They've already invested in your brand - trust that they'll support your efforts in other ways, as well. You won't be disappointed.