Does Social Media Leadership = Social Responsiblity?

On Tuesday night, January 12th, the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti entered my home via Twitter.  It was there that I read early reports of the widespread devastation and saw the horrific photos of the collapsed building (including schools) with people literally buried alive.  Beyond breaking the news, it was also via Twitter that I saw the first Tweet for Haitian Relief via texting 90999 on your cell phone, thus delivering $10 to be routed to the Red Cross.  This message was ReTweeted and posted to Facebook, and as of last Friday, over $10 million had been raised.  This is a great example of how social media can be leveraged to galvanize citizens to action, and, to do so rapidly and easily.  More importantly, this humanitarian crisis has brought out the best in people worldwide, as they dug into their own pockets to help a country greatly in need.

If Haiti has been the beneficiary of social media, what responsibility do companies who have harnessed the power of social media and used it to enhance their like-ability, reputation, brand value, and, in fact, profits, have to countries like Haiti?  I think quite a bit.  Brands that are successful on Twitter are in part because they use Twitter as tool to listen and respond to their customers, changing and shaping products and policies as they do.

One company that stands out in this regard is Starbucks.  Starbucks has been both one of the top brands mentioned on Twitter, and, one of the top brands that Tweets.  So, after Google announced a $1 million dollar donation to Haiti, I sat back sipping my latte waiting for Starbucks to follow suit.  Instead of hearing about a donation, my local Starbucks had a sign alerting customers that if they wanted money to go to the Red Cross, Starbucks would happily get it there.  Now, I’m pretty sure that given the cost of a Starbucks latte, most of their customers are rather well educated, and compensated (who else can afford $4 for a coffee?) and can easily figure out on how to get money to the Red Cross.  (Here’s a hint:  Text 90999 on your cell phone.)  My local Starbucks did not offer to match funds, nor, did they take $1 from my purchase and donate it to Haiti.  My latte tasted a little less sweet.

Thus began my daily scan of @Starbucks to see if they were really going to take some social responsibility.  And, as of Sunday night the 17th, they did.

Now, that’s how I like my latte:  with 2 sugars, minimal foam, and $1 Million to help Haiti.  How do you take yours?