5 Reasons to Reform Social Network Marketing

1. Our social networks are being targeted, tapped, and stolen.

Corporations are very intentional about entering social networks with word of mouth and social media marketing tactics designed to gather customers through personal relationships. This is already happening.  “Buy one, refer 3 friends and get it free” is a common offer that places our social networks at risk.  When friends begin to target each other for personal gain, relationships change.

What once was a just a party, night out with the girls, parents association meeting, kids ball game or neighborhood bar-b-que becomes an “opportunity”.  Friends know when they are victims of a sales program. Sales training about how to be more effective and persuasive just make things more uncomfortable.

But it’s already here.  Since it can come through any individual without permission or warning, it can’t be ignored.  The force is too strong and variable be eliminated with rules or regulations.  It needs to be reformed to serve the common good.

2.When we recognize the value of our social networks, we can secure the funds we need for doing good.

Corporations that are investing millions of dollars in social media network marketing among friends are willing to invest that money in nonprofit organizations that produce the same results for the company- more customers. The same corporations that invest in FB, twittering among friends, followers of a youtube star or word of mouth referrals will gladly support a cause we share as customers.

When we are conscious as a social network, we can shift the flow of finances used for marketing into a common purpose to do good. When those who support a common cause agree to cooperate for community benefit, everyone can win.  Transparency and integrity can take away the weirdness and suspicion about hidden agendas or being used.

Agreement up front about a good product with a good company that supports a good cause through our cooperative effort removes the pressure that can be divisive in a social network or cause people to fall away. Only invest your social network for a good cause if you are investing in your network at the same time.

3. Relationship marketing is about RELATIONSHIPS.  If done properly, relationships can be strengthened.

When used blindly, any kind of marketing can destroy relationships.  Even with good intentions. When marketing becomes a campaign, friends become customers and quotas are to be met, we begin to fear opening the next email or answering the next phone call from certain friends. The spam filter doesn’t work and a “gotcha” contact chips away at goodwill, respect and trust.

With awareness and commitment to relationship ethics of respect, freedom, honesty and justice, bonds can be created around the common good. When resources are shared with equity and transparency, everyone benefits and the joy of economic well being generates hope.  Mutuality in fair exchange between friends teach us that an alternative may exist to the win/lose marketing game we’re accustomed to playing.

As we consider what is best for the environment and the disenfranchised and those with special needs among us, the value of social marketing allows us to direct commercial profits toward doing the greatest good. Cooperative effort that creates financial support for creating and sustaining common space and a common purpose creates a true partnership. Everyone contributes and the volume of markets created brings shared power for consumers to support work that provides the most social benefit.

4. Integration of money with relationships develops character by testing motives and revealing values.

Free choices about how money will be spent for essential products and services create a voice from consumers about what companies will receive loyalty over time.  We can promote healthy sustainable products and services that are safe and contribute to a better quality of life.  Sharing a concern that everyone’s children do well, not just our own creates a caring community and encourages corporations to give attention to multiple benefits and consequences beyond the financial bottom line.

Cooperative intentional buying  and selling requires an openness and communication that builds authentic community.  Self determination and self sustaining organizations open the door to deeper belonging and positive identity. Shared pride that comes from working together helps reinvent the world as a more peaceful and satisfying place to live.  Accountability becomes a personal choice more than attempts at forcing compliance.

5. The next generation needs and deserves a better economic structure.

A more equitable economy allows everyone to participate according to the same rules of distribution. That doesn’t mean that everyone will experience the same benefits, but everyone will have opportunity.  Hard work and contribution to the common good will be rewarded. Our acceptance of privilege makes it difficult to visualize a system where more people are able to secure their own welfare, but when serve more than our own interests, we find an abundance that is not easily recognized in a culture where scarcity is assumed.

Short term interest in quarterly reports and weekly balance sheets give way to future studies that include our great great grandchildren.  We can spend our income in ways that influence a course of events and create systems to combat unintended negative consequences of current decisions.  We can learn to sacrifice today that which makes a way for the best to emerge through us all for generations to come.

The profit motive alone will never accomplish these five objectives. With courage and collaboration we can bring reform to a faulty economic system revolving around greed and self interest. Through agreement to experiment with new forms of exchange, we can discover a better stewardship of all that is given for us to share.

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Do You Show Up as a Consumer or a Citizen?

We’re all consumes.  We buy and sell our stuff, our vision, our ideas and ourselves.We’re all citizens.  We belong with responsibility.  So “Citizen or Consumer?” is not a question of what we do and don’t do.  It’s a question of our primary identity, how we show up to others in our world.

And it makes a difference.  When people who are first consumers show up in our world, the world becomes defensive.  We act on assumptions of scarcity, power and dependency.  We’re more likely to take care of somebody, or expect them to take care of us. The consumer world generates fear, suspicion and shame.

What if we don’t have the intellectual, financial, social, beauty or charismatic currency needed to buy what we believe we can’t live without?  What if someone else has more and outbids us? What if no one wants to buy what I’m selling and thinks my version of fun, care or art sucks? When I run out of what makes me attractive enough to get at least some of what I need, will I end up being alone?  These are important questions among consumers. Predictability, proof and acquisition govern most choices.

For citizens, we worry about things like how everyone can share in the common good. What’s worthwhile depends on what the outcome might look 100 years from now. Traveling together to destinations that count and getting there with our integrity intact is more important than finding the most expedient path. Creativity that brings joy and meaning to a community or helps it flourish socially, economically and spiritually trumps the idea that brings in the greatest profit in the least amount of time at the lowest cost..These are the concerns of people who show up as citizens first.

Others watching how we show up at a meeting, a party, for work, or on holidays will have a better picture of how we show up than we do about ourselves. The image we try to make in the mirror is never the same as the real thing that others experience.  Authenticity may not feel safe because there’s no assurance that who I am will be noticed, accepted or useful.

When we show up as authentic citizens who care about the neighborhood and social networks that give us life, everyone has a better chance of receiving what is needed.  We don’t all have the same desires or needs, but then we don’t all have the same gifts or resources, either.  Authenticity and commitment to being good citizens reveals the needed gifts each of us have for making the world a better place.

Is there a way we can make genuine citizenship a lasting reality? Can we reduce the negative impact of being consumers above everything else? Can we mitigate the effects of personal ambition, greed, deception, and fear that showing up as consumer breeds in a friendship, work group, congregation or family?

What will it look like when marketing takes is rightful place as servant among us? How can we buy and sell in ways that strengthen friendships, create hope and puts values we proclaim into practice? The role of consumer has been accepted as a necessary norm along with it’s principles, strategies and goals. When we meet next time, let’s come as citizens first and see what happens.

Then we’ll have some guiding stories to a more sustainable, flourishing and peaceful community.

 

Creating Real Jobs from Invisible Assets

We primarily depend on the government or business to create jobs so we can earn a living to provide housing, transportation, medical care, education, entertainment and all that is needed for ourselves and those we love.  We give away our money in taxes and hours of our life in working with the hope that government or business will provide for our needs.   We may give up our freedom and neglect our families to serve government and business in return for the wages and benefits they promise.

Sometimes this system works.  As it does, business tends to become greedy and rewards those at the top with a salary and bonus for top executives that may be 400-500 times the salary of the average worker.  When government grows, it creates a larger bureaucracy with red tape and waste that dampens the spirit of enterprise and personal responsibility necessary to economic health.

When the system isn’t working, corporations and the banks that support them become fearful and hoard resources needed to create jobs.   For their own survival, costs are cut back and jobs are lost. In lean times of great need, governments become overextended in attempting to care for citizens.  Raising taxes and using credit hurts the very people government is attempting to rescue.

When we depend on corporations, we become consumers, addicted to the things we can buy.  We fall into the trap of believing we need just a little more, the new improved product, or something it seems everyone else has.  We build stuff so we can buy stuff, locked into the system as consumers.  What we consume becomes our goal in life and what we own becomes our identity.

When we depend on government, we become clients.   Over time we come to expect and take for granted the assistance that is offered.  We learn to manage the system in order to receive what we need.   A battle arises in negotiating our rights and benefits with those who make decisions about how government programs are administered.

The group of people that refuse to depend on corporations or government are entrepreneurs. They may seek the blessing or assistance of both government and business, but they depend more on their own effort to create what is needed for economic survival in this world.  Few are able to take this route because it requires creativity, great determination, resistance against failure, a worthy product or service and an initial investment to get started.

Entrepreneurs take risks without the safety net of corporations or government to back them up.  They tend to be fiercely independent and sometimes rough in their pioneer spirit. They are often willing to do “whatever it takes” to succeed and may lose friends or family in the process.  Although figures vary, one conservative study showed that 34% of business start ups fail during the first 2 years and by the end of 4 years, 56% have failed.  Of those remaining, some are still at a break even point.

Is there is a safer way to invest and build on our social relationships collectively rather than independently?  Can we cooperate in a way that creates a livelihood for those who are connected for the common good?  With a believe in abundance, there is enough profit to go around for everyone to share.  If we realize that WE are not broke, then maybe we can find a way for many to prosper.  Some are suffering financially, but the GNP of our country is sufficient for everyone to make a living if we can create ways to provide an opportunity that neither government or business is doing.

A responsibility we all share is to provide a ladder up for anyone ready to climb it. By creating jobs through our connections around community needs and resources, we can. Collaborating for the common good will strengthen our neighborhoods and families through economic development opportunities made available to everyone.

The Allurement of Private Enurement

IRS 501 code reads, “The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, such as the creator or the creator’s family, shareholders of the organization, other designated individuals, or persons controlled directly or indirectly by such private interests. No part of the net earnings of a § 501(c)(3) organization may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. A private shareholder or individual is a person having a personal and private interest in the activities of the organization. If the organization engages in an excess benefit transaction with a person having substantial influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and any managers agreeing to the transaction.”

Legal judgments on what this regulation means have been nebulous at best because it deals with invisible assets in relative terms.  It may be simple to count the dollars one receives, but but not so easy to measure the trust, influence, authority, good will, promises, teaching, gifts, relationship advantages, shame or gratitude that are connected to money received by members of an organization.  The term “inurement” is so much of a mystery that WordPress doesn’t even provide spelling for the word.

Although legal considerations matter since a nonprofit organization can lose or fail to obtain tax exempt status for violation of the private inurement code, the greater danger may be a loss of trust and transparency among members/supporters of an organization.  The negative results are more felt than proved on a specific budget line and can be harmful to much more than an organization’s tax status designation.

At the core of private inurement is a practice of using the assets of a nonprofit organization for personal gain.  It is often limited to examining the tangible investment of nonprofit funds to create exuberant compensation for paid staff of the organization, but a moral interpretation goes beyond legal definitions to suggest that anyone in leadership may unfairly use their intangible power or leadership over members to influence them is such a way that he or she profits financially as a result.

Leadership is a sacred trust that ought not be entangled with suspicion or mixed motives.  When considering a profit/nonprofit partnership, there is always the possibility that as members of a community enter business arrangements within the social network, there may be charges of private inurement, or using the organization for personal benefit.  This can happen when an auto mechanic, real estate agent, financial planner, construction contractor or Mary Kay representative does business within a congregation or nonprofit organization.

We may argue with a minster or nonprofit CEO who strongly influences their group to contract with their own family members to perform maintenance on properties owned by the nonprofit at a fee that is far beyond normal or for services that are never rendered.   We would probably not, however, complain about a son or daughter providing music lessons for a reasonable fee to members of the group (as long as no undue pressure is applied by leaders), or about the leader of a group selling books he or she has authored.  When members of an organization freely choose to do business with one another, the normal conflicts of commerce may arise, but the burden of unfair advantage among members should not be an issue.

Care must be taken to level the playing field of opportunity for all and ensure that no one benefits simply because of their position.  It is difficult to establish rules since the connection among friends is a primary dynamic of relationship marketing and coexists with more formal relationships and informal power within organizations.  One possible strategy is to be sure the organization benefits from any commercial endeavor and then the organization can choose ethically and legally how a leader would be compensated rather than allowing a leader to act independently with unlimited range of profit through the organization.

Don’t Just DONATE to what you believe in. INVEST in it.

With rising costs for charitable work and a decline in giving during difficult economic times, every dollar you dedicate to doing good needs to produce the greatest SSROI (Social/Spiritual Return on Investment).  Evaluating the work and efficiency of any nonprofit endeavor is important to knowing your effort makes the greatest difference.

Every donation, whether a one time or regular gift, is gone once spent in promoting your mission.  This creates the need for continual fundraising efforts to maintain ongoing work.   New donors are needed as inflation, growth in outreach and attrition of donors demand more dollars.  The perpetual work of fundraising keeps donors involved and informed, but also uses valuable staff and volunteer time to keep programs moving forward.

Some investments in your organization’s work can provide repeated returns for a single effort. This is the purpose of contributing to an endowment fund.  With low interest rates and a need for cash flow to maintain the mission, endowment funds require a large balance and produce a small return.  Investments in an endowment fund cannot be spent and are always at risk.

The nature of a social business enterprise is to create ongoing income and growth in financial resources over time.  Just as any profitable business increases in value and provides income for owners, employees and shareholders, a cause based social enterprise can grow and provide ongoing income when successful.  This residual income reduces the need for repeated fundraising events and campaigns.

When considering a social business enterprise to produce residual support for your organization, the social and spiritual return on investment must be evaluated in light of the original investment of time and money.  Running a typical business requires managing products, people or property, providing services, keeping records and customer service or startup costs.  A large investment is generally counter productive regardless of income generated for your cause since the time, money and risk associated with it distracts from the focus on your mission.

Every organization, however, has one valuable asset that can be invested for the common good.  It is less obvious than their financial resources, but may be worth even more to your mission. The social connections you share with each other and others outside the group create an affinity network of trust and communication.  In today’s marketplace, this social network is highly valued by corporations willing to pay for the opportunity to introduce their own business to your members.

Never place the integrity and relationships of your organization at risk of being harmed by commercial interests by corporations that operate according to typical marketing methods of deception, guilt, shame, greed, fear, enticement and pressure to “buy” your members loyalty.  These forces are so common in marketing efforts, we have come to accept them as normal and may be blind to the harm they can do to a community with a shared commitment to a common cause.

Invest your social capital carefully and wisely.  Don’t put your most valuable asset at risk of being lost or weakened.  Measure the potential social/spiritual return on investment in terms of the good that may be accomplished, care for relationships in your community, and financial support to accomplish your goals.

With careful planning, you can safely invest your social capital through voluntary participation in a low key marketing enterprise that generates significant support for your mission without risk to relationships, reputation, or the cause you serve.  The right social business enterprise can even strengthen relationships in your group through collaborating for the common good and connect you with new people in your community.