Social Media’s CSR Opportunities

Best practices from DJSI-members in CSR communication through social media
Social Media’s CSR Opportunities
Publ. date 23 Nov 2011
Europe has 476 million internet users, of which 350 million are using social networks. These numbers are derived from InSites Consulting’s 2011 global study on social media use. Over half of the people who are using social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, are connected to one or several brands. The most important reasons to follow or recommend a brand, are personal experiences with the brand and conversations about this brand. Insights into the underlying motives of ‘fans and followers’ enables organizations to better meet their needs.

Consumer Expectations

People do not want to be flooded with information or commercials on social networks. Instead, they are looking for social interaction. ‘People like people more than brands, so behave like one’, is the advice given in the study. The most important purpose of following an organization is to get information on a product or service. Users are also interested in special promotions and events. Satisfied employees are an important factor in this process: 61% of employees is proud of their company and 19% talks about their organization on social networks. Since people mainly pay attention to positive experiences from others, satisfied employees who proudly talk about the company are an important asset.

Social Media as Platform for CSR Communication

Organizations are only sparsely using social media to communicate about corporate responsibility topics. This is the main conclusion of the Social Media Sustainability Index. This benchmark analyses 287 European and North-American leaders in the field of sustainability (selected on Dow Jones Sustainability Index membership) on their application of social media. Less than half of the world’s most sustainable companies are using social media to communicate about corporate responsibility, and only a quarter has opened a specific channel on a social network or has started a separate blog devoted to sustainability.

CSR Reporting in the Communication Mix

The authors of the report presume that the lagging behind of ‘social’ communication on CSR is explained by the traditional approach of the topic. Conventionally, CSR reports are released annually which inform specific stakeholders about the company’s activities on corporate responsibility. However, because of the growing public interest in and attention for the sustainability efforts, it is relevant to also address the topic on a broader level. And the public, according to InSites’ data and numerous other studies, is increasingly using social media to gain corporate information. A reasonable next step would thus be to approach them through their usual channels.

Best Practices in ‘Social’ Communication

The ten best performing companies in the Social Media Sustainability Index are:
1.       General Electric
2.       IBM
3.       Ford
4.       Starbucks
5.       Dell
6.       PepsiCo
7.       Allianz
8.       Nokia
9.       Puma
10.     SCA

According to the authors, engagement through social media is achieved by effective storytelling and showing respect to your customers and the larger online community. These leaders are rewarded for their efforts in this area and the manner in which they address corporate responsibility through their social channels. Three strategies are mentioned to ‘socialize’ sustainability. The first option is to continuously publish on social media, for example on a specialist blog or a Facebook page, which can be seen at Nokia, Sainsbury or FedEx.
Social media CSR campaigns are short-term, engaging activities that often draw attention for a particular theme. Successful examples of such campaigns are for example Ford’s People Fleet or Project Pink by Puma. Finally, corporate reporting could also be a way in which social media are integrated into the communication mix. An example of this approach can be found at Nestlé. Summarizing, social media can create value in communication on sustainability and responsiblity topics by creating awareness and engaging stakeholders.
If you would like to know more about the possibilities of social media for your organization, please contact  Nikkie Vinke, consultant, via or call +31 6 28 02 18 80.
About Nikkie Vinke

Multidisciplinary advisor in ESG benchmarking, sustainability strategy development and execution. |

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