Social Citizens: How Social Media Can Help Social Problems

Last week, Facebook finally revealed their much hyped “life saving” feature: the organ donor status. This has sparked our interest towards other examples of how brands and charity organizations have managed to use social media as a platform to help social problems through user engagement.

 

Networking on social initiatives

Socialcitizens.org, part of The Case Foundation, is one of these initiatives that thrives to encourage those involved in social media (be it privately or professionally) to share problems and create solutions. Together. By motivating and inspiring the main users of social media, they match creativity with solutions and volunteers with companies. Basically; matching social problems with social media in order to build effective problem solving within a strong network of creative and social media superusers.

 

“Hipsterfying” a taboo

Movember is another great example of how to target people in order to engage actively through social media to help a social problem: prostate cancer. The campaign started in 2004 before social media had a firm grip on the majority of most countries’ population and the outcome was not really that impressive. Today, the campaign not only raises great awareness about men’s health and prostate cancer, in 2011 it also raised $120 millions for research in men’s health. All because of the power of social media and the right campaign audience targeting.

 

A jungle of good intentions

There are thousands of online services that connect causes with volunteers, creators, developers or donators. Some are free, some charge a small fee. Mutual to most services is the utilisation of user engagement and the great force of social networks: Getting a message out within seconds and creating involvement and results across timelines and continents. Facebook Causes from 2007 was part of the initial online social awareness evolution and many other services followed on apps and social media channels such as Twitter.

 

Combining branding and social awareness

The slide sharing service, SlideRocket, promotes their own brand by having a non-profit slide competition rewarding the slideshows with most unique visits and the best storyline with a donation of $5,000. Only requirement is that the presentation promotes a non-profit case – and that it is shared with as many people as possible. This creates both a great exposure of SlideRocket as a product as well as the good cause in question.

On a smaller scale of helping social problems, Mexican tele company Terra has placed a Poo WiFi constellation where dog owners (and the rest of the parks’ visitors) receive free WiFi for every poo-deposit as a part of Terra’s campaign for a new WiFi product. Though not providing shelter for the homeless or curing cancer, the campaign raises awareness to a daily nuisance to the park’s visitors. So, by understanding our need to be constantly online, they create active interaction.

 

Who are the game changers?

If launching a charity or a social problem initiative online as a part of your company’s CSR-strategy or simply in the campaign planning of a product launch, the generations of “digital natives” are the ones you need to watch and target. They are referred to as Millennials and have most likely never owned a VHS-player, composed a mixed tape to the cute girl next door or lived after the age of 10 without a Facebook profile. According to socialcitizin.org, they are already constituting the force behind the growing use of social media in the fight against social problems in our societies.

Not only replacing the old time consuming knocking on doors, the use of social media to decrease social problems offers both quick and world wide collaborative solutions as well as results.

Have your company ever considered launching a social initiative through social media?

Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain messenger.com to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.

 

Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.

 

Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.

 

At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.