Key themes in Social Goodness
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Key themes in Social Goodness

There are five key themes that I explore explore in detail in Social Goodness, all of which are part of wider social trends, including sustainability, authenticity, the move towards more human-centric business, and ESG (Environment, Social, Governance).

1. People trust business

Out of the four main institutions – government, media, NCOs and business – globally people only trust business now to be ethical and trustworthy, but obviously that isn’t all businesses. And, as Edelman’s trust barometer report in 2021 makes very clear, people also have much higher expectations of business than they do of the other three institutions. So it makes sense that those companies and business leaders that don’t behave well can expect to be called out, slammed on social media, and ultimately boycotted. And we see this happening increasingly often.

Businesses need to be doing good as this is what people expect, but the challenge is that it can’t be done half heartedly and they can’t fake it. It has to be real and authentic and embedded in every part of the business, and certainly not woke- or green-washing. If you are fake you – the brand – will get called out on social media as everything is now transparent and on view. As a result of social media brands and business leaders have nowhere to hide and have to put in the work to put their house in order, embed social goodness in their company DNA, and not fudge it. 

2. People don’t care about most brands

People don’t care about brands and most of brands as interchangeable… because they are in the eyes of most clients. They only time this changes is if there is a monopoly so no other choice, a business really hacks them off (see above) or really pleases them. The ones people really like are the ones that do a good job and are aligned to their beliefs and lifestyle. The ones they really hate are the ones that do harm or act badly.

In addition, people tend not to trust businesses that have tracked them round the internet advertising at them, appear next to horrific images, are tone deaf to what is happening in the world.

3. Advertising is mostly a waste of money

Advertising is not a reliable option for businesses, and not just because people hate it (although that should be reason enough). Brands are pulled in to advertising online because it is easy and you can micro target people using 3rd party data. However, research shows people are getting ever more ‘banner blind’ to the point where they avoid looking at anything that is even in a place where you would normally see an advert and are constantly finding ever more clever ways to avoid seeing adverts at all.

If a brand is going to advertise, it has to be genius, else people won’t engage and won’t remember. Anything less than genius will backfire and cause brand avoidance. And the way that the algorithms target people doesn’t work as well as most brands hope, partly because the granular data might not be reliable, it’s not easy to set up properly, people see it far too often, and because most adverts are really pretty boring. It takes a huge amount of effort, inspiration, spend and trial and error testing to get online advertising to work effectively and most brands don’t – and can’t – put that effort in. Consequently the average conversion rate is only a tiny amount more than an organic conversion.

This is even more important than ever right now in 2021 because 3rd party advertising is failing. Apple’s privacy changes are going to affect all apps, including Facebook, and knock advertising across the board. Google’s changes to cookies and the EU privacy data laws are all going to have an effect as well. Also, research shows that programmatic ad spend and social ad spend often ends up funding hate and division despite brands trying to be ethical, something any decent brand would be extremely concerned about.

4. Most brands are invisible online

Another side effect of the algorithms is that the social media platforms reduce the visibility of any business that isn’t advertising… in order to force them to advertise. Therefore most brands are invisible as online unless they invest in creating social traction.

We talk about social traction a lot because it’s our specialist subject, so you may already be aware that it happens when you have everything working together organically to answer the questions people have on their way to make a decision to purchase something, so you become their trusted source. Here’s an article on Social Traction I wrote a while back explaining it in more detail.

Fundamentally, however, what this means is that businesses have to be a good business. That is, experts and what they do and able to show it, behave ethically, communicate clearly, and care, that is be approachable, give back, and present and engaged with their audience. This will enable a brand to ‘walk alongside’ their (potential) clients, be there when people looking for answers, and not be conspicuous by their absence.

5. Social media is broken – and its business’s fault

The way social media has evolved is fundamentally flawed and is contributing to the breakdown in society and the destruction of the planet. It’s broken because of the way the advertising algorithms have been developed to service businesses. Therefore it is the clients – the businesses who advertise – who are fundamentally responsible for the way social media is set up to do harm and they are the only ones who can mend it.

How do they do that? By saying no to social advertising, Google ads and any 3rd party digital advertising until Big Tech sort out the systems, and a resounding yes to investing in building a 1st party database and engaging with their audience in away that benefits everyone.

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