Mashable Social Good Summit: Social Media’s Growing Role

Leveraging social media to help solve some of the world’s toughest problems was the theme of Mashable’s Social Good Summit in New York on Monday. The conference was held in partnership with the 92nd Street Y and the UN Foundation during United Nations Week.

The range of speakers included philanthropists, media and business executives, actors, and government officials, each offering a unique perspective. After the jump are highlights from selected sessions.Jack Leslie, chairman of Weber Shandwick and chairman of the U.S. African Development Foundation, said he has seen an evolution from “cause marketing to CSR / Corporate Social Responsibility to ethical branding.” He emphasized that it is important for brands to be committed to doing the right thing.

According to Leslie, it is even more crucial now since the number of respondents in an annual Yankelovich survey that asks whether business acts responsibly has been trending downward for decades.

Leslie also noted the move from “a broadcast mode to engaging with customers on a daily basis. Now we think of them not as consumers but as advocates, so we talk to them about things they care about.”

Bonin Bough, global director of digital and social media at PepsiCo, agreed. “Companies are realizing that it is important to be a good corporate citizen.” He said that Pepsi operates around the principle of “performance with a purpose and delivering sustainable growth to invest in the future.”

He cited Pepsi Refresh, which has a $20 million fund to invest in large and small projects to fund communities. Pepsi Refresh has been active in several areas, such as health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the environment, neighborhoods, and education.

Adam Conner, Facebook’s associate manager of public policy, said, “Facebook can’t fix the world’s problems, but we can be part of the solution.” He provided some impressive statistics. “With 500 million members, if Facebook was a country, it would be the third largest in the world. The U.S government has 40 agencies with a Facebook presence.”

Conner said “the social Web harnesses individuals and connects to address critical issues.”  His recommendation for using Facebook to promote causes is to “focus on what your supporters will find interesting.”

Susan Smith Ellis, CEO of (RED), an organization that focuses on helping to eliminating AIDS in Africa, discussed her efforts to enlist the private sector and to use the power of social media. She said, “Social media has emerged as a tremendous force for social good. We have used digital outreach campaigns to humanize AIDS’ impact.”

(RED) utilized a number of platforms, including an iPad app, Twitter, and Facebook, along with several celebrities, to promote the documentary film, The Lazarus Effect, which shows the beneficial results of using antiretroviral medicine to treat the disease.

Ellis reported that so far (RED) has helped treat five million people with AIDS and has raised $150 million.

Ted Turner, chairman of Turner Enterprises, Inc. and chairman of the UN Foundation, was interviewed by Pete Cashmore, founder and CEO of Mashable, on topics including the media, philanthropy, and being an entrepreneur.

Turner said, “It is the responsibility of the media to be as accurate and inspiring as possible, and some are doing a good job, such as the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. I’m not a fan of sensational journalism. I think the media could serve more of a role in educating regarding the problem of overpopulation.”

When asked what CNN was like in its early years, Turner said, “we were scrapping and scraping and we sweated every payroll for seven years.” In his entrepreneurial career, he said he “wore out four financial VPs.  I also went through five PR people.”

Photo: Courtesy of Nancy Lazarus