If you own a small biz, Living Social and Chase have put a price on your Social Capital. Guess what? You are a really cheap date. Pardon me as I tip my mom hat askew and don my social media costume for a moment. I’m bugged. I have a whistle to blow.
For the past week plus I’ve been an odd mix of proud of and perturbed by all the requests for votes in Chase/Living Social’s “Mission Small Business” campaign. As an entrepreneur myself, I have a vast network of small biz owner friends. My inboxes are flooded.
Kudos to my pals. They’ve written brilliant descriptions about their clever and awesome projects and products, in the hopes that they will be chosen to receive $250,000 worth of seed money to jump start their biz. To them, that is a lot. It would be to me and my own small biz as well. But I chose not to enter, even though I would love the cash to do more, and we actually bank with Chase for the biz (note: service has been extraordinarly meh-average there).
I chose not to enter because I spotted a ruse. Here’s a link to a post I wrote a long time ago about voting campaigns in the blogging community. Not much has changed since then other than the net widening to include other individuals and groups (small biz) that possess significant social capital for a brand to try and exploit.
I should note that I don’t think poorly of anyone who did enter. I think all of my friends who entered are worthy of that cash and I have enthusiastically voted for them repeatedly. This despite the fact that they are looking at competition from tens of thousands of other small businesses. I believe in them and their businesses. Enough to spend some of my own social capitol and precious time on them.
But do Chase and Living Social believe in small biz, really? Really?
I wanted to write a post about the raw economics of this campaign but I found one that was really better than I could have put it so I’m linking here to a very salient post that you really should read about what Chase and Living Social have at stake, and what they’re’ willing to spend to “support” small biz. In a word: “Pocket Lint”.
On the other hand, lets look at what small biz owners are willing to spend in order for the chance, however slight, to get this kind of $.
Social capital and good faith are exactly what is lacking from Chase and Living Social’s accounts right now. For them, this campaign is a stroke of genius. Who has better loyalty and faith than small biz owners who have struggled to stay afloat in this difficult economy? They have gathered impressive mailing lists, they have vast social networks of followers on Facebook and Twitter. They have nurtured these sort of trusting relationships and have worked hard to put that faith in their dollar strapped account. In many ways that is as important as cash. Small businesses may not have much to work with, but many are rich in social capitol. Social capital that is worth a fortune to them, considering the time and effort it takes to amass it. But to Chase and Living Social, it’s worth pennies. Tens of thousands of businesses sending daily reminders, emails, tweets… literally pennies when you break it down.
Small businesses are spending their social capital on this campaign for what amounts to a few cents. For me, it wasn’t worth it. I’m not a gambler. It’s hard to keep that Social capital account full and I’m not sure my followers would not abandon me when they saw how cheap I’d sell them out for a vote. I’m far more understanding of the stuggles of my fellow biz owners than most of my followers (and possibly theirs) would ever be.
By running this campaign as a voting contest and getting small biz to spend their social capital, on behalf of Chase and Living Social’s overall campaign goals of garnering good will, I believe Chase and Living Social have denigrated small businesses. They’ve treated them like a really cheap and easy date. Worse, they are asking them and asking them to pay the bill.
You might have thought that you can’t put a price on good will, but apparently you can: 3 million bucks. Consider this against the marketing budget for TV ads, print and other media efforts.
Despite sounding a little bitter, I’m still going to continue to follow and vote for my friends and keep my fingers crossed for them. I’d really like for them to win, for them. They rock and they deserve it. Chase & Living Social, on the other hand, have lost me. I hate the way they are making my pals jump through hoops. I’d love to switch banks. I don’t want to support Chase & Living Social due to this campaign. We all need authentic support of small business by banks and brands. Not this sort of carefully calculated social usury.