Building a social media platform around sustainability & philanthropy
November 29, 2018
I firmly believe that in order to create lasting impact for communities before it’s too late, sustainability needs to generate short-term economic value for those who invest in it.
Climate change is too diverse, too political, and too vague to drive altruistic efforts. We have our own short-term needs to cover right now: a family to feed, bills to pay, and a retirement to save for. But if we don’t make sustainability an economically-viable investment, we’ll get stuck with another tax. Most likely, a tax that will fall too short and arrive too late to save the communities suffering today.
We know that climate change is a shared responsibility with a shared, but not equally distributed, cost. I’ve talked about our shared emissions, what we’re calling Emissions Overlap, in a blog post earlier this year. Philanthropy is a category of sustainability because it gives voice to human and environmental suffering and a way to act, to lessen, that suffering.
But every sustainability option available today comes with a financial cost to the end-user; you and I, in the form of higher prices or optional fees. Paying these fees is like paying a guilt tax: it makes us feel better even though we don’t really know who it helps or what it does.
The role of Social Media in Philanthropy & Sustainability
Young consumers live on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. To reach them, we advertise, engage, and entice. And for the past 10 years, we have been told that engaging consumers on these platforms will lead to sales. Unfortunately, that’s a lie. And even though companies continue to spend billions advertising on social media ($50 Billion in 2018), more than half of CMOs are unable to find a link between those advertising costs and sales (source). This holds true for promotional ads, philanthropic outreach (like we just saw on #GivingTuesday2018), and sustainability engagements.
When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.
To find a shortcut between the consumers who care about social and environmental causes and companies investing in sustainability and philanthropy, we need to overcome the 4 engagement-focused shortcomings of traditional social media marketing.
Problem #1: The Entrance Fee
I started by eliminating the entrance fee to participate in philanthropic and sustainability causes. The brands you love should be supporting the causes you care about, not the other way around.
Problem #2: Choose to support a brand’s cause, or do nothing
We gave consumers a choice and a voice: Select the causes you care about and want to support. There’s many ways to rebuild a community after disaster strikes so why do brands continue to partner with the same national organizations every time? We vetted seven 501c3 nonprofits working to help California communities recover from the recent forest fires and offered university students across the country an opportunity to support them on our dollar (actually on our $5.00).
Problem #3: You earn no reward for supporting a brand’s cause
Next, we gave consumers a reward for making their choice: $5.00 towards a gift card. Not much, but still a nice incentive for a minute of their time. Too often today, consumers are asked to purchase a product to reach the sustainability option. We treat every purchase as an entrance fee that prevents companies and people from investing in the human and environmental projects that our communities need to thrive in today’s changing climate.
Problem #4: Don’t talk about carbon offsets!
Lastly, we invest our own money directly into sustainability projects by buying carbon offsets at a rate of 1 offset per donation. The focus remains on the local impact created by each supported cause because philanthropy drives engagement and brand value. The offset is just an environmental currency we purchase to help combat climate change. Separating the offset (sustainability) from philanthropy has remained one of the toughest challenges in carbon markets around the world but its something we’ve solved for, and do, everyday.
Vitendi connects the people who care about local causes with the brands trying to make a difference
Sustainability needs to generate a return on investment above and beyond traditional digital marketing today and simultaneously help brands maximize their mission-based engagements and convert future promotional campaigns. It’s a tall order. But with $1.5 Trillion in the balance, it’s also a worthy problem to solve as well. That’s why we’re building Vitendi, a new social media platform that provides consumers a place to find and support the causes they care about alongside the brands they love and a place where brands can realize true returns on their mission-based investments. Vitendi is currently in beta and is planned for an early 2019 launch.