What We Talk About When We Talk About #SocialEntrep

By Theresa Braun I have been throwing the term “social entrepreneurship” around a bit recently, with little pause to consider what exactly it implies. Typically, social entrepreneurship refers to the creation of social change using standard business principles (or, for a far more descriptive explanation, check out "Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition"). Of course, digital tools have ushered in a new era of social entrepreneurship, bringing greater emphasis to the first half of the phrase with the use of social media to enact social change. The use of new media can--more than ever before--increase awareness, rally the troops, and make an impact on the world (with little to no start-up capital). In today’s world, the need--and possibilities--for entrepreneurship, social media, and social change has never been greater, and these lessons for the likeable business leader have never been more relevant.

Tell compelling stories. In order to have an impact on the world, you must have an epic presence, a brand with weight. Compelling storytelling has the power to form emotional connections, give your mission relevance and context, and connect donors to those they are helping.  The social enterprise Nokero provides affordable, environmentally-friendly technology around the world to eliminate the need for harmful, polluting fuels. Using video for visual storytelling, the organization answers the question, “Why Nokero?” by showing the difference its solar-powered light bulbs has made on real people. Strong narratives elicit feelings which elicit action.

Turn passion into (non)profit. Scott Harrison is the founder of charity: water, the organization that brings clean drinking water to over 1 million people in undeveloped countries around the world. Charity: water is one of the more well-known, successful charity organizations, with impressive growth in recent years and plenty of lessons to share. One of Harrison’s biggest pieces of advice is to be, above all, passionate: “The biggest mistake I see most people make is that they're half-in, half-out,” he’s said. If you’re not thoroughly committed to the cause, there’s zero chance of inspiring others to commit too.

Be transparent. Run your organization as a likeable business. For social enterprises it’s particularly necessary to be an open-book; don’t let there be any doubt that you’re doing good. By revealing the work you’re doing (and sharing what, specifically, donations are going toward), you break down the barrier between donors and results. For example, 826, a nonprofit with a network of writing and tutoring centers for under-resourced students, openly shares its annual report. And the Paradigm Project, a social enterprise working to create sustainable economic and environmental value within developing world communities, shares its statistics and outlines a “plan of progress” in a shareable infographic.

Be a social media social entrepreneur. Like all business leaders, the social entrepreneur can’t forget to be, well, social. Strive to be where your donors and supporters are--have your bases (and audience touch points) covered--and expand your capacity to learn from and listen to your “shareholders” (the communities you’re aiming to aid). Girls Who Code is a new organization working to provide high school girls from underserved communities with the skills and resources to pursue careers in engineering and technology. From Facebook,  toTwitter, to Tumblr, the organization is effectively engaging with its followings, sharing valuable content, and sparking a movement.

Whether you’re a social media entrepreneur enacting social change or a social entrepreneur using social media, it’s always important to always be a likeable business leader.

Join the Likeable crew and members of the NYC tech community  on Monday, September 24th at 6 PM at our Social Entrepreneurship Party to continue the discussion on all facets of #SocialEntrep!