Today’s update is a guest post from Jessica Purbrick-Herbst, community manager for Social Traders. Jessica gives some tips on how social enterprises can use the digital economy to support their communications and marketing activities, and grow their businesses.
A social enterprise is a business that has a social purpose, and invests the majority of its profits (50% or more) into delivering that purpose. The social enterprise business model is robust and sustainable, and is increasingly becoming the business de rigueur as entrepreneurs seek alternative forms of profit distribution.
In context, there are over 20,000 social enterprises in Australia, with footprints in every Australian community. For some examples, consider your local bowling club, RSL or sporting league. Within this business model, the social enterprise sector may support a disadvantaged group (long term unemployed, disabilities, young and at risk). Or the production of low cost fruit and vegetables may provide access to fresh produce for everyone in the community. A social enterprise may be a cafe, a film production agency or community centre. It can also be a financial institution (for example, Bendigo Community Bank) or a packaging and distribution unit.
Just like any business, a social enterprise needs customers, and tools of the trade. Having access to the national broadband network (NBN) will enhance business growth across all sectors, by improving the speed, reliability and access to internet connections around the country. For social enterprise, utilising online marketing tools, directories and of course social media will help to grow the business, bringing in new opportunities.
Strong and stable internet connections have already enabled social enterprises in Tasmania to find customers globally; Victorian social enterprises to compete for business around Australia, and Melbourne social enterprise caterers to provide online ordering systems to corporate clients across the city. Without this network of reliable internet access, these businesses would miss opportunities and struggle to meet their social impact goals.
Top Tips for Hume Region Social Enterprises
- Develop a practical, integrated marketing plan which coordinates online and off-line business growth activities.
- Communication activities need to be integrated (supported and consistent).
- Going online doesn’t have to be expensive. Utilise blogging platforms like WordPress or Tumblr to establish an online presence. Try Facebook and Twitter to support your activities. Use a regular, brief, action-orientated newsletter (try Mailchimp) to reach existing customers and find new ones.
- Don’t sign up for every shiny new online system – find the two or three preferred hangouts that are used by your current and potential customers, and build from there.
- Sign your business up for a free listing on The Social Enterprise Finder (www.thesefinder.com.au) – Australia’s only directory of social enterprises.
For further information and access to online tools and resources, go to:
- Social Traders – national social enterprise support and development organisation
- Social Enterprise Finder – Australian online directory of social enterprises
- Social Traders E-bulletin – a free e-bulletin from Social Traders
Images and video links:
- Flickr: socialtradersau – a Flickr gallery of social enterprise images
- YouTube: The Crunch – a Victorian social enterprise development fund
- YouTube: The Social Enterprise Finder – a video introduction to the online directory