Using Social Media to Transform Capitalism
In his book, We First: how brands and consumers use social media to build a better world, author Simon Mainwaring proposes the transition from Me First capitalism, the traditional free market and profit driven capitalism, to We First capitalism, where businesses and consumers use capitalism as a driver of prosperity for the greater good.
We First is about corporations creating value and building a better world, and consumers accepting a higher level of responsibility for creating the world they want. The transition to We First is realistic and possible today with the rise in social media, which gives consumers more leverage to persuade businesses to accept greater social responsibility for their behaviours, and offers businesses more opportunities to have real-time dialogues with their customers.
Simon argues that while some companies are embracing elements of corporate social responsibility and triple bottom line accounting, the overall progress of integrating sustainability into the fundamental principles of free market capitalism has been irresponsibly slow and not deep enough. To put business on the We First path, he proposes seven values: Sustainability; Fairness of Reward; Fiscal Responsibility; Accountability; Purposefulness; Engagement; and Global Citizenry.
In the book, Simon outlines his vision for We First capitalism, including the responsibilities of We First companies and consumers, and the ideas of Contributory Consumption and the Global Brand Initiative.
We First Companies
We First companies must accept a higher level of responsibility and accountability, show leadership commitment and engage employees and management, focus on sustainable business practices, build prosperity and collaborate with other companies and governments.
We First companies also need to enlist consumers as their partners in change efforts by allowing consumers to co-create the brand, involving them in meaningful causes, building social capital, engaging consumers and giving them the chance to vote on the brand every day.
We First Consumers
We First consumers can use the tools of social media to shop more consciously, through researching a brand’s footprint, and recommending socially and environmentally friendly products. Consumers can also be involved in social entrepreneurship or invest in responsible companies.
We First consumers would persuade companies to be more responsible by using social media to spread ideas and issues, lobby for better models of economic progress, push businesses to implement social contracts, and engage in positive dialogues with companies.
Simon proposes a new system of We First funding, Contributory Consumption, in which every transaction generates a charitable contribution. This can be implemented through real and virtual marketplaces, such as retail stores, online shopping, mobile devices, and virtual games. Examples are shown below:
Global Brand Initiative
Simon also proposes the Global Brand Initiative (GBI), an association of brands and their advertising partners working together to advance corporate social responsibility and charitable donations. The GBI would pool their resources, expertise, knowledge and talent into one focused initiative to change the world.
The vision of We First is about businesses leveraging on social media to build consumer goodwill, loyalty and profits, and about consumers using their social media tools to influence and drive change in businesses. Whether the vision becomes reality would depend on our choices, as Simon rightly concludes: “We are the only ones who will build the world we want.”
Images: We First