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Social Media as Platform for CSR Communications

How rare is the green tweety bird?
Social Media as Platform for CSR Communications
Publ. date 3 Nov 2011
Companies are increasingly making use of social media for various purposes. In marketing, webcare and PR, social media have become household names in the communication mix. However, in the field of CSR and sustainability, social media are not necessarily regarded as a useful platform yet. While the delivery of CSR messages relies on mainly traditional channels such as the CSR report, social media show great potential for discussing sustainability issues and engaging stakeholders.

Case study: European telecoms

In 2011, Finch & Beak investigated the application of social media in the communication of CSR-topics at three European telecom providers. The study was executed using both qualitative and quantitative research methods. First, a content analysis decided whether CSR was a topic that was commonly addressed by the companies in their social network communications. Second, a survey among the ‘fans and followers’ of the brand asked about their motivations to interact with the brand. We also asked them to rank the topics that were discussed by the companies on the level of personal importance. Finally, a reputation scale measured the perception of the brand by the social media users.

CSR not a common topic

The content analysis showed that the emphasis of the companies’ online communications through social networks was on product and service information, entertainment news, promotions and competitions, and customer service. The amount of attention paid to CSR, which in this industry entails topics such as internet safety and digital divide, was small. Interactivity on the topic in terms of likes and comments lagged behind in comparison with other topics.

Facebook shows greater CSR-potential than Twitter

Topics that were found in the content analysis were presented and ranked by consumers on level of interest. Differences were found between users of various social networks. Twitter users show a preference for customer service and information on network disturbances, while Facebook users report higher levels of interest in competitions, entertainment, and CSR. Facebook users also evaluated companies more positively on the reputation scales in comparison with Twitter users. This suggests that a network like Facebook shows great potential for communicating about CSR.

Information and entertainment drive positive user perception

Using the COBRA-categorization of user gratifications in brand-related social media use, it also was found that information and entertainment driven users showed highest levels of correlation with brand evaluations. This suggests that individuals driven by the need to find out more about the company and its services and those who are looking for fun and relaxation, think more positively about the brand than those who are driven by other motivations. It is therefore imperative to facilitate these needs.

Concluding, we have seen that social media show opportunities on different levels. Companies could ánd should gain further insight into the needs and interests of fans and followers to optimally facilitate them. Users show different motivations for interacting with brands through social networks and these should be taken into account. CSR information enriches the interaction between brands and consumers through social networks and may enlarge acknowledgement of social and environment issues, and the initiatives companies bring forth to address them. Useful examples of how to incorporate CSR into your social media strategy, can be found in our article on social media’s opportunities for business.

If you would like to know more about the effective use of social media for your organization, please contact Nikkie Vinke, consultant, via or call +31 6 28 02 18 80.

Nikkie Vinke
About Nikkie Vinke

Seasoned advisor in ESG benchmarking, sustainability strategy and stakeholder engagement. |

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