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Environment. It’s a word chock-full of images and conjures up so many pictures in my mind. I recall the mist of the rainforest in Montverde, Costa Rica; the sand and dunes at Cape May; the joy I experience when I visit family in Buffalo, Florida and Ontario, Canada. These environments (communities of people, places and things) mean something.

We speak of office, political and social environments and how they affect the work we do, the neighborhoods we raise our children in and how we exercise our freedoms and democracy. Ahhh, I do digress into larger waters than usual with claims like these. But I think they are important to consider. And the great frontier – the gigantic digital (online, social) vastness we find ourselves working to navigate perplexes, frustrates and confounds what we know, who we want to be and how we want to interact in new ways every day. Our digital landscape, our social environment is increasingly becoming an environment we must acknowledge and be willing to discuss with an open mind. And, we must be aware that if we study, explore, test, measure and confront it we may find we can create a garden, or at least a friendly and engaging playground, where we as individuals and organizations, can benefit.

When I refer to social media I am not referring to sharing what you had for breakfast, how many outfits you wore that day or how the weather is mucking up your plans. I’m talking about how organizations, B2B and B2C, non-profits, and educational institutions can intentionally share relevant information that others (their key constituencies, audiences, strategic partners, prospects and clients) find interesting, worth reading, engaging and even actionable.

Social media exists to distribute the “goodness” you work tirelessly to create through your products, services and mission. Social media helps you to communicate your organization’s reason for being. Organizations spend tens of thousands of dollars; millions and even billions to develop logos, messaging, products, services, and then forget that they actually have to send it into a multi-channel world. It doesn’t suffice to create; you have to ship and share.

Social exists to create conversation, to diffuse the “misses” that you work tirelessly to avoid but often confront. Social helps you jump in and manage the conversation before one person tells 10 people and your GlassDoor posts go south, your CEO score plummets and you’re conjuring up ways to have your “good employees” post happy thoughts that GlassDoor may or may not publish.

Social media exists to bridge the gap between brand and consumer, C-suite and entry level, alumni and student, donor and patron. Social provides everyone a voice.
Social media replicates the physical world we live in too. The one where someone cuts you off in traffic, someone bullies you in a group, someone drives you to the brink with their obnoxious views and unrelenting, never-ending monologue. We tend to dismiss, distance and break off from those people and groups. Social has equal potential for good and bad just like our “offline” world.

And, beyond the obvious (educating others about your organization, products and services) how can shipping and sharing through social help you create a social environment that builds the goodness every organization strives for?

Tell your story well. Really well. Consider your organization’s “why,” your “because” and be sure that everyone in your organization (top down and bottom up) knows the why, the because and the mission and value statements. Make sure they communicate through that lens every day and in all ways – customer service, operations, marketing, sales, public relations and community service.

Attach your organization to something meaningful. Is there a non-profit or cause that speaks to your organization or is personal to at least one of your employees? Is it something that allows you to share your collective human side – show your people in action, reaching into the communities they serve, live in and aspire to be a part of?

Turn public relations and content into an ongoing communal event that serves the recipient and the giver in a mutually beneficial way to educate, entertain and inspire. Turn all of your employees, volunteers, students, interns, donors, members and customers into advocates, ambassadors and raving fans who, each in their own way on their respective, preferred channel share your “goodness.” Isn’t that the long play?

These are just three practical ways to begin to leverage social media for good in your organization. Consider these and others as you begin to cultivate the social environment that best serves those that mean the most to your organization.

Environments are organic. They, like the gardens we cultivate, change and require we pay attention, close attention, as we feed, prune and harvest the fruit of our labors.

*Originally published in June, 2015 edition of I95 Business: “Use Social Media to Own Your Company’s Identity”

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