Social Media: The Secret Sauce to Growth


As we try to emerge from the recession with many mixed signals of recovery, it is increasingly clear that we — as business leaders, employees, consumers and communities — must work together to transform the private sector into a force for positive social change. Governments and philanthropies are no longer able to meet the scale of needs in the world, so the private sector must step up to the plate and begin using the engine of capitalism as a motor of prosperity and growth for all humanity.

The basis for We First is not an abstract or utopian social vision.

It is grounded in a new dynamic emerging between brands and consumers, stemming from the rise of social technologies linking up people into networks and communities, and reconnecting us with our sense of empathy and global oneness.

Never before have consumers been able to organize themselves so well or to unify their voices and leverage their purchasing power as now. Through Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and smart phone apps, consumers can create their own “citizen media” to bypass the mainstream channels of opinion-making and advertising. Social media and smart phone apps give consumers the tools they need to organize protests, to become smarter shoppers, and to push back on socially and environmentally irresponsible companies through boycotts and buycotts.

"Using social media themselves, brands can reach out to engage customers in deeper ways, developing meaningful relationships with them that result in greater admiration and purchasing loyalty." -Author, We First, Simon Mainwaring

But We First also shows businesses myriad benefits they will gain by accepting greater social responsibility.

Using social media themselves, brands can reach out to engage customers in deeper ways, developing meaningful relationships with them that result in greater admiration and purchasing loyalty.

Consumers who are fans of a brand become its greatest advocates, its source for referrals, its test bed for R & D and marketing, and its champions who ensure its survival.

We First lays out a concrete plan for how brands and consumers can work together. It proposes four mind-shifts that companies of all sizes need to make in the thinking that drives their business models, strategies, and notions of profit:

  1. Redefine Self-interest. In a world of 7 billion people, we must come to grips with our notions of Me First, winner-take-all self-interest. We must allow mutual self-interest to win out over narrowly defined, selfish rewards that benefit only an elite few at the expense of the many.
  2. Integrate Profit with Purpose. We must begin incorporating purposeful, constructive goals into our businesses so that our daily commerce contributes to solving the world’s problems rather than just churning out empty profits for profit’s sake.
  3. Expand Sustainability. We need to extend our concept of sustainability to include not just environmental but also economic, social, ethical, and moral sustainability.
  4. Re-instill values. We must reinstate a base of human values into capitalism such as accountability, responsibility, fairness, and global citizenship.

We First offers practical and specific advice for businesses and consumers.

Businesses learn how they can attract a loyal following of such proportions that they literally become “brand nations,” i.e. entities that command consumer loyalty regardless of geography, nationality, or language. Consumers learn how they can use social media and their purchasing leverage to persuade and cajole companies into accepting their social responsibility.

Finally, We First proposes an entirely new concept for funding global change called “contributory consumption.” This idea suggests that companies and brands agree to donate a small percentage of every single consumer transaction to a cause, creating more resources than ever before to build a better world.

Simon Mainwaring is the founder of We First, a social branding consultancy that helps companies, non-profits and consumer groups build a better world through changes to the practice of capitalism, branding, and consumerism using social technology. He is the author of We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World (Palgrave/Macmillan, June 2011). Or visit

Email me at bullishonbooks@cnbc.comAnd follow me on Twitter @BullishonBooks