Online customers are looking for a new type of more ethical consumerism – that’s where social enterprises come in.
Social enterprises are the best of both worlds; people working together to create awesome experiences for the greater good. Social enterprises get people to spend money and do good at the same time; encouraging online involvement is a core social enterprise strategy.
Digital success for social enterprises is all about exploiting the power of partnerships, having on-brand messaging, and focusing on exceptional customer experience. As a social enterprise, you’re selling much more than ‘just’ a product or a service – you need to communicate your values and your mission too.
Here are five online strategies available to social enterprises right now – could any of these be right for yours?
1. Share your knowledge online
Become the ‘go to’ knowledge base for a specific cause, theme, or topic in order to reach more people. Having lots of useful content on your domain will make you popular with search engines, as well as users; and it will attract the attention of publishers and journalists. By showing that you are an expert, you are opening yourself up to expert contribution gigs (which is great for PR).
- Create an online resource library that’s focused on answering your audience’s questions and that addresses their key pain points. In a niche that you know well, creating great content shouldn’t take all that long. Use all your internal resources and conduct some market and audience research (including topical keyword research) to make sure you’re creating content both of value and
- Use gated content in order to keep part of your resources back – you can ask people for their contact details (or even payment) before they can access it all.
- Webinars are a great way to share your expertise online. You can even host them for a small fee if you feel people would pay to tune in.
By capitalizing on information, you are building a solid and helpful online brand. The more powerful your domain and brand, the better your ranking and sales potential.
2. Be active on social media
Social enterprise– the clue’s in the name! You need to be ready to embrace social media for your organization. Social media will allow you to build a powerful army of followers and supporters.
- Social media is a powerful awareness tool. To reach the widest possible audience, it’s worth having official pages and profiles across all of the main channels – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Social media management tools like Hootsuite are an ideal way to manage multiple profiles easily and efficiently.
- Being active on social media – posting content, interacting with others, sharing and commenting – is a great way to show expertise and authority on a subject. It’s also a great place to get people rallying together to take on a challenge! The online challenges that have caught on in recent years have brought a lot of publicity to the organizations behind them by encouraging participants to nominate others, spreading through social media like wildfire.
- We all know someone who did the no makeup selfie, the ice bucket challenge, or the latest push-up challenge. They seem a little silly, but because they capture people’s imaginations and add a sense of friendly competition, they are incredibly effective as drivers for awareness. Try using online and paid social media advertising to get your campaigns off the ground.
- Social media is also a great place to find online influencers who may have an interest in supporting your business as investors or future customers. Cultivate partnerships with people and always give as well as take.
3. Clever product marketing
Social enterprise stores need to emphasize their mission alongside product and service value, but no one wants to buy their socks from someone who is constantly ramming facts and figures down their throat. It’s important to keep your marketing focused on the end-user.
- Make it about the products and services only as much as you can– not everyone wants to be an advocate and the products (should) sell themselves. Of course you’ll want to talk about your brand values and mission statements on your website, but don’t make those your only selling points. TOMS shoes are a great example of a social enterprise that manages to balance products with values – their “one for one” is subtle and simple.
- Make your USP (ethical provenance etc.) intertwined with your design so that consumers immediately ‘get’ what you’re about (even if it’s subconscious). Think carefully about the colors and messaging you’ve chosen, and don’t make assumptions about what your customers think – ask them.
- Make sure that your marketing strategy factors in search engine optimization – there are loads of long tail key terms like “organic, fair trade, cruelty-free, ethical” that you’ll want to be visible for.
- Even if ecommerce isn’t central to your enterprise right now, simple products like t-shirts, tea towels, coasters, and mugs sell well online, particularly if you go down the branded route. Handmade items are also very popular – why not ask employees to each donate something to sell? It needn’t cost much to set yourself up – try this free online store trial to get a feel for just how easy it is.
4. Try online advertising
Find advocates where they are – put your products and services in front of your ideal customers with targeted advertising.
Online advertising is a must. The beauty of doing advertising online is that, unlike traditional advertising, you can track the whole thing to see what’s working and what’s not, particularly if you’re using a platform like Google Adwords. It means that you can pull back from ads that aren’t performing well at a click of a button. You can also target the most relevant people through segmentation and targeting.
- Try to learn from your mistakes and keep refining the ads you publish in order to maximize returns.
- Consider exploring other avenues like website banner ads, newsletter sponsors, corporate gifts, and even YouTube ads to see what gets the most attention and engagement.
5. Earn through affiliate marketing
A great way to earn extra money online is through affiliate marketing. When articles and blog posts mention useful (and relevant) products or services that can be bought online, then by linking to them via an affiliate marketing program you receive a commission on sales. It’s a popular form of monetization for bloggers and webmasters and can be a good source of income with the right recommendations.
Don’t allow articles and product recommendations to drift away from your charitable purposes, unless the venture is in some way separate. You have to be very careful about starting new business ventures as it can have an impact on your charity status – read here how you might (inadvertently) jeopardize your charity through too much diversification.
Our guest blogger is Content Marketer and Startup Specialist: Kayleigh Alexandra
Passionate about writing for the startup and entrepreneurial audience, Kayleigh has recently been part of setting up an exciting project at MicroStartups.org. They donate all website profits to charities that help people to reach their full potential. Find out more on Twitter.