Andrea Learned

The award-winning Living Change podcast: Listen and follow now wherever you get your podcasts!

Want More Impact? Invest In Going Social


Thanks to a couple of short business/personal trips to gorgeous places in the Pacific Northwest (home region pride!), I had the opportunity to have informal conversations with a few seasoned clean tech impact investors. After each of those interactions, I found myself wishing more of these folks were on Twitter. Why would I care? Because I can’t help but visualize the exponential impact their knowledge contributions could make in the social space.

Though I’m not “in” impact investing in any traditional sense, my informal summer meetings have helped me realize the power in seeing social media in that framework, whatever your immediate professional field. The “impact ROI” of time strategically spent on Twitter or LinkedIn is immeasurable, but in a good way. While the usual social media data analytics are important for fine-tuning traditional brand messaging, for certain, this is a less defined prospect that still has a potentially huge, sustainable (dare I say “legacy”?) payback.

Thought leadership social media impact is about how likely your shared wisdom will enter the thought process of someone — just the right person at just the right time — who will amplify that impact one or two levels further. When climate action, or, more broadly, environmental and social responsibility, is the focus of all this forwarding of content and leadership, would we even consider leaving that earned “interest” on the table?

I’m thinking not.

So, what happens if you view your own impact investing work through an added “social” filter? Do your workday priorities have exponential and lasting worth? Are you expanding the “knowledge bank” that will inform and support future generations in your field or the areas in which you invest? Answer honestly.

Leadership Footprint As Counter Force

Whether we are talking funds, time or talent in impact investing, I’d argue that a leadership footprint could turn into an incredible counter force to our world’s increasing carbon footprint. I like to believe, as an example, that my small professional footprint expands based on how much I can help even a few sustainability-minded leaders develop their social “voices.” While I can only handle a few clients at a time, my Twitter presence means I can share what I learn – and cheer on the smart leaders I come across – with a lot more potential impact.

In the case of someone like clean tech influencer Nancy Pfund, of course, there is a whole different level of impact. With over 3,000 followers, this leader of a (per her Twitter profile copy) “double bottom line VC firm focused on strong returns with positive social, environmental and regional benefits” has the potential for far beyond data-measurable impact in the world. And, don’t even get me started on the climate action impact exemplified by both Christiana Figueres or Paul Polman this past year. In fact, the smart COP21-driven use of Twitter by all sorts of NGO, academics, journalists and corporate leaders – as well as many, many other climate-acting thinkers that defy categorization – forged an incredible path to the Paris Agreement. And, that is still being leveraged for the good.

I’m convinced that the more we listen, share and amplify climate action leadership, as just one area of impact, the more the carbon footprint issue may be blown away by the wind or get burned off by solar forces. But, that’s just me.

Social Effort = Giving Back

As I was writing this, I came across a video of Seattle-based angel investor, Serena Glover, who talks about how appearing on panels was key for giving back to the community that had long supported her. What better way to further amplify that sense of “giving back” than by being as accessible on social media as you choose to be? Even when those who could really benefit from seeing you speak can’t make a particular event, for example, a quick tweet can forward your insight and encouragement a long way. Every little bit helps, and counts.

Invest in THAT impact, why don’t you?

Worth note: So many leaders I talk with about this respond very quickly that they don’t have time. On that, I’d counter — don’t let any supposed “best practices in social media” dissuade you from joining in. If you follow only ten influencers and engage with Twitter or LinkedIn (my top recommended networks for B2B leadership) just once a weekday for 10 minutes, how you contribute STILL has the potential to matter. A lot. Of course, after just a few weeks of that level of commitment, the practice has a way of being so rewarding that you ramp it up. (I could go on…)*

But, here’s the bottom line: impact investing is about putting your money where your values are. We’ve hit a point in time where there is no longer a question of the business case for it. So many passionate and values-driven individuals are finding their own ways to make an impact with their wealth.

I propose that we do not leave all that compound interest on the table. Instead, let all investors (of wealth or otherwise) strategically leverage social media as part of leaving a collective impact legacy.

*Contact me if you are interested in my help developing your own thought leadership through social media engagement.

Image via Flickr/Creative Commons
First published on Medium, August 11, 2016