Like it or not, companies no longer have full control of their brands.
Official corporate and CSR information that is available online (financial data, industry news, employee structure) is complemented by huge volumes of unofficial information (opinion, stories, analysis and social media sentiment.) It is critical that businesses are seen to be transparent online. Corporate Social Responsibility is a perfect fit for social media and today can be measured by an index showing the social sentiment their CSR programmes have created.
Why use Social Media for CSR?
Social media enables a two-way conversation. A company must tell its stakeholders about its operations, but it ignores their feedback at its peril. Executives need to know what is expected of the company, what direction to steer it in, and social media helps convey those messages faster than the AGM.
Today it is expected that companies want to have a positive impact in their spheres of operation, and that they will not only shout about the good things they’re doing, but also put their hands up when they make mistakes. Utilising social media indicates a willingness to engage with the world.
A business has many stakeholders such as employees; customers; investors; media; government, and community groups with which it must have dialogue. Social media empowers each of these groups, deepens connections between them and the company, and fosters greater engagement.
Social media allows for a company’s message to be fantastically amplified – a tweet can echo around the world in minutes; a Facebook image can be Liked and shared by thousands of people who may never have even heard of the brand. It increases awareness and helps the brand tell its story.
A company should establish its values, what it hopes to achieve through its CSR policy, then form a coherent strategy of how it intends to meet and measure its goals. This can then be shared and reinforced continuously over every communication channel the business uses.
Selecting the appropriate social media platform will depend on where the company’s desired audience is to be found, but in practise there are currently 3 platforms ideal for CSR: Twitter, which allows for real-time sharing of information, forging connections with thought-leaders and key influencers, as well as its range; Facebook, which like Twitter allows brands to reach an extensive audience but also allows for more in-depth two-way communication and, crucially important for CSR practitioners, image-sharing, and company blogs, where long-form information is more suited.
The content that is most likely to be shared is clear, honest, informative and compelling. Companies should highlight CSR activities that are easily-relatable and illustrated with imagery, such as staff volunteering, charity fundraising, or meeting environmental objectives.
Alongside the benefits of social media comes risks. When a company frequently discusses its CSR, it can more easily be attacked when it gets it wrong. But transparency, honesty and engagement can all counter this and help strengthen the brand if/when things go awry.
Who’s getting it right?
The brewer Coors has successfully used social media to push through a responsible drinking message, followed by a popular app that allows drinkers to connect with taxi companies across Canada.
Tech giant Intel regularly updates followers through social media about the company’s progress in reducing its carbon footprint and minimising the harmful chemicals released in chip manufacture.
How an index can work with CSR programmes
The winning businesses of tomorrow will create truthful, open engagement, with the communities they work with via social media. An index will provide corporate managers with an at-a-glance snapshot of the sentiment their communications have had, enabling a rapid and fluid response.