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A Guide To Social Media For CSR Professionals

Social media provides powerful tools to communicate, get information and feedback on CSR.

Submitted by: Jonathan Yohannan

Posted: Feb 15, 2013 – 09:20 AM EST

Tags: social media, twitter, facebook, pinterest, youtube, vimeo, linkedin, stakeholder engagement, csr, csr communication, brandfog

 
Jonathan_yohannan

By Jonathan Yohannan

The CSR issues landscape is evolving in tandem with new media. New technologies and channels break barriers by enabling a flow of information -- which is often instantaneous and unfortunately sometimes less than accurate. More sophisticated companies are using social and new media channels to protect their reputation from misinformation, tell their story to target audiences and inspire new ideas and innovation.

Managing social engagement for companies also pays dividends to employees. When C-Suite social media engagement is managed, nearly 70 percent of employees believe that leveraging social media makes CEOs more effective leaders according to a recent survey by BRANDfog.

Becoming a CSR expert can be daunting enough.

Understanding the data -- from Life Cycle Assessments to industry specific challenges such as water, human rights and conflict minerals -- can be a full-time adventure. But now you also have to think about how to manage and use social media to communicate complex issues and engage priority stakeholders.  

For those CSR experts who haven’t had the time to understand the dynamics of new media and social social mediachannels, below is a guide to help you understand the pros/cons of using a particular channel to engage or communicate on CSR issues.

Twitter: What You Should Know

Twitter has been a prominent vehicle of CSR headlines, from politicized comments by rogue Whirlpool employees to Wal-Mart engaging and disclosing their commitment to purchase $50B in products made in the U.S.

Why is Twitter important in the context of CSR?

Discovery

  • Serves as an effective monitoring tool and early warning signal of concerns or trending issues
  • Helps you identify and follow latest thinking of CSR leaders as many have Twitter handles.

Networking

  • Provides opportunity to identify influencers based on subject matter expertise or specific issues [Examples: #sri #water #climate #sustainability]
  • Serves as a vehicle to have dialogue in real time [Examples: #sustycareers #csrchat #csr #susty]

Engagement

Limitations: 140 characters

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Pinterest: What You Should Know

Pinterest has made headlines as one of the fastest growing social media sites. The content sharing Sevenly on Pinterestsite enables users to share images, ideas with their networks. Think of it as modern scrapbooking.

Why is Pinterest important in the context of CSR?

Storytelling

  • Provides companies a way to illustrate their commitments

Grassroots Sharing

  • Enables companies to provide sharable imagery, infographics or videos to groups passionate about issues from fair trade to global warming

Limitations: Not quite defined as a presence for brands/marketers and CSR. CSR products that have a retail component do well, like Sevenly.

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LinkedIn: What You Should Know

LinkedIn has been the strong and steady networking channel for professionals since 2002. While you Linkedinmay be keeping your personal and professional distinct, it can also be a very effective tool to identify and engage CSR influencers for your company.

Why is LinkedIn important in the context of CSR?

  • Provides opportunities for companies to create or join CSR groups to share ideas, stories, network and promote key initiatives [Example: CSRwire's Linkedin group]
  • Helps you directly connect and have discreet conversations with subject matter experts in CSR or in CSR focused groups
  • Also, is a source for recruiting talent.

Limitations: Balancing the line between personal and professional outreach.

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Facebook: What You Should Know

The global adoption rate of Facebook over the past five years has made this a familiar channel for most professionals. Facebook has been a tool embraced by brands, companies and activists alike.

Why is Facebook important in the context of CSR?

  • Provides vehicle to incorporate and bring to life a company or brand’s CSR commitments
  • Gives an opportunity for activists to engage and challenge a brand on issues, such as the criticism NGOs and consumers provided directly to Hershey on cocoa and human rights
  • Enables brands or companies to customize their story on a market-by-market basis. Not all CSR issues have the same importance geographically

Limitations: Facebook is a resource intensive investment that comes with risk. As an organization, you need to determine if CSR supports the brand or has a distinct identity.

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YouTube/Vimeo: What You Should Know

Now an alternative source of entertainment to traditional cable television, YouTube has established itself as a critical social media channel in the minds of consumers.

Why are YouTube/Vimeo important in the context of CSR?

  • Offer an excellent way to humanize your CSR story through video and allow others to pass along the content to their networks
  • Chipotle has effectively communicated their CSR story through traditional advertising and social channels

Limitations: Cost for content creation

Tips for CSR Communicators

  • Understand you don’t control the conversation. You influence it; it’s social, not one-way, advertising.
  • Prepare to have a dialogue on difficult issues; deleting or ignoring challenging uncomfortable comments creates animosity and distrust towards your brand.
  • Be credible, authentic and transparent in your communications. Make sure you are communicating in a way that’s believable and true to your business commitments.
  • Leverage all social media outlets to engage: tweet about a speaking engagement, post it on Facebook, host a Twitter chat, post images on Pinterest – with the goal of all linking back to each other.
  • Do your homework and have a well thought out strategy.
  • Invest in resources and talent to manage social and new media communication.

Editor's Note: Waiting to dabble your fingers in social media? Join us for a Twitter chat on Tuesday, February 19th at 2pm EST to discuss how to make employee engagement work across corporate hierarchies with a panel of experts and practitioners. The hashtag to follow: #CWSummit13. We hope to "see" you there!

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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