Monday, March 14, 2011

The social platform for social change

Today I launched a social change experiment. I've created a Facebook fan page urging the popular group purchasing site, Groupon to make a change that I believe would positively affect the current state of America.

While starting a Facebook page to promote a cause is not exactly a new idea, the idea here is to see how much leverage it takes to provide real change. The experiment is not the Facebook page but the entire platform known as Groupon.

Let me explain the idea and then I'll get into what I'm talking about. The idea is what I'm calling Groupon: Made in America. Basically, it's requesting that Groupon do one weekly, nationwide Groupon for a socially responsible product that was made 100% (or close) in the US. Preferably this product would be one that was not only created in an environmentally friendly way but that is also just a socially responsible product in itself. One idea that comes to mind is a company out of the north west that makes aluminum water bottles which promote better health and less waste than plastic bottles. They're made from recycled materials, the emply local artists, the give part of their proceeds to charities, and they've gone to great lengths to ensure their factory is as green as it can be while also ensuring the quality of their product is second to none. (if you're wondering the company is called Liberty Bottleworks and I have no affiliation with them)

Now that you know the idea, let me explain the experiment. Groupon is a very fast growing new company. They are changing the way business is done and they are growing at a very intoxicating rate. Their influence grows daily and even more than that, they seem to get a new copycat each day as well. The old dinosaur elite companies of the past are taking notice of the new crop of companies like Groupon and they are either changing with the times or losing ground quickly. The new crop is the new guard and they move quickly. They are fresh and new and most importantly, they are social and still finding their identities.

This at a time when the world needs major change, and while everyone has the ability to have a voice, most important messages are being drowned out by all the voices that are saying nothing. Just as Groupon works though, we can use the collective voices of just a few thousand to turn the tides. The thing about the new guard is that they can be utilized in ways that allow the little guy to use them as our platform. It takes an acto of congress to change McDonlad's and getting them to speak for you is a lost cause. McDonald's is a dinosaur. Groupon though can be moved. Not only can they be swayed into doing things, they can be utilized as a megaphone that trumpets the message to the rest of the world.

In my idea, I have Groupon making a few extra dollars and getting a ton of free publicity from a move that is both socially responsible and bold. The magic part for them is that it costs them almost nothing to do and it follows along with their business model now so they aren't selling themselves out. When Groupon does this, they trumpet to all of their customers an underlying message which is to buy American. They display companies that care about their employees and practices. They get the media to jump on top of the buy American story. They inspire copycats in their field and others and finally they get the dinosaurs of old to take notice and maybe bring a few of those manufacturing jobs back home.

I couldn't do any of that stuff on my own. I also couldn't do any of that stuff with a Facebook page about buying American. I don't own or control Groupon in any official capacity. Yet I know that if I can drum up even a small amount of support, I can use Groupon to spread the message far and wide.

The new guards are the platform and Facebook pages are the 2 ounce keys that start the 3000lb automobile. Now lets just see how it works.

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