In recent decades, social media outlets have proved to be great networking tools for not only individuals around the globe, but also multinational corporations. This sample marketing (i.e., brand awareness and cause-based marketing efforts, highlights how modern corporations and businesses have used social media tools and marketing to improve their widespread reputation.
Social media: Corporate social responsibility’s best friend
The dawn of social media’s widespread acceptance has created an immense number of opportunities for organizations of many sorts. One such opportunity is a new way to increase the awareness of a firm’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts among a target market or community, which entails certain advantages in terms of firm’s activities or marketing efforts, publishing photos, text, videos, or other materials via social media platforms), but also provides firms with a unique opportunity to publicize its efforts to engage “private governance” – whereby firms institute de facto standards that impact the public’s quality of life in a positive manner. Hence, social media outreach efforts to promote awareness of a firm’s CSR campaigns can greatly improve the impact that these campaigns have. It also provides a means to diversify a firm’s methods of gaining feedback on the perception and efficacy of its CSR efforts.
One advantage that taking CSR into the social media sphere offers is the ability to narrowly target certain market segments and demographics, in order to promote awareness of CSR efforts, or to engage the public in participating in these efforts. One example of a firm that uses social media to target a particular segment of consumers when publicizing CSR efforts is McDonalds, which uses the Twitter hashtag #365Black to promote and spread information about its 365Black program – an effort to expand access to education, employment, and career information within black communities. Additionally, Yahoo uses social media platforms to target specific geographic areas for CSR efforts, as part of its “Yahoo for Good” project. Unlike traditional marketing efforts that might target a geographic locale or a certain demographic, social media platforms allow nearly instantaneous feedback about the success of CSR marketing efforts: for instance, Facebook provides Facebook Insights, which allows firms to collect metrics regarding consumption of content published on that social media platform.
A responsible marketing solution for companies
In many cases, implementing the use of social media also offers another distinct advantage over traditional means that firms and other organizations user to promote CSR: cost. Compared to other means of achieving publicity for athe impact that WalMart has made is a relatively low cost way to increase public exposure to a CSR campaign or effort.
Though paying an employee to handle social media efforts is probably necessary in many cases, this cost must be compared against the alternative: paying an employee, as well as paying the high costs associated with the production and distribution of traditional marketing and promotional materials. However, there is one important caveat to note – employing social media as a means to carry out marketing and promotional tasks doesn’t always reduce marketing costs. Small businesses are far more likely to reduce their costs by turning to social media, compared to midsized and large firms, which (depending on their sector and marketing tactics) might not actually see a decline in costs by utilizing social media.
Content is king
Additionally, social media platforms allow for publication of content, as well as receipt of feedback from the public, that enhances the awareness of CSR efforts related to private governance, and enhances the impact that these projects have. Consider WalMart’s 2007 decision to lead the vanguard in establishing high-efficiency compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) as the go-to choice for light bulb buyers in the US: while this shift occurred in many countries as a result of government action, WalMart’s voluntary efforts were successful in pushing adoption of CFLs by US consumers.
One interesting aspect of this is that consumers have uploaded content relating to this effort to social media sites like YouTube , where years after the CSR campaign began, consumers are still engaged in discussions about these advertising techniques do not maximize exposure. The participatory aspect of social media platforms allows for the public to play an active (if indirect) role in facilitating discourse regarding private governance efforts, thus integrating elements of participatory democracy into these CSR strategies. In any case, social media platforms provide a powerful means for firms to reach out to the public and establish their position as a leader in private governance efforts – which can help build brand affinity among consumers, and build social capital for the firm’s representatives and employees that are present in the communities that its CSR efforts target.
Social media also enables firms to diversify the means by which they solicit, receive, and interpret feedback related to CSR campaign efforts. In addition to providing a means to present the public with surveys and feedback opportunities that they might otherwise avoid (i.e., cold calls on the telephone, or spam mail), social media offers the opportunity to engage in a high level of interactivity with members of the public that provide feedback.
Such feedback can be solicited (in response to a query from the firm), or unsolicited/spontaneous. A good social media strategy implementation assigns resources within a firm to collecting feedback on social media platforms, soliciting additional feedback where appropriate, and archiving feedback for future research and analytics usage. Though the information that is collected from social media platforms in this manner is not as controlled or reliable as information that is collected in more formal surveys, this method does entail certain advantages: it is an extremely low-cost means to collect primary data concerning public opinion and customer feedback, it is much faster than a large survey effort, and it promises extended opportunities for interaction with members of the public or consumers (for the purpose of obtaining additional clarity regarding their prior statements).
Reaching thousands of customers with a click
An additional way that social media can expand the impact that a CSR effort has is by transcending the barriers that are associated with the use of traditional media. For instance, publishing information in newsletters, newspapers, or other community-centric publications alone may have been a sound strategy in the past, but today will necessarily limit the exposure that CSR efforts attain. As readership of these traditional forms of media continues to drop, they cannot be depended upon to achieve the kind of exposure that many firms desire. Hence, they must become part of a more well-rounded strategy that ensures that demographics that increasingly avoid print media (especially younger people) are also exposed – which means turning to social media.
Social media also helps to eliminate temporal issues related to engaging in CSR efforts related to events within a community. For instance, a firm might be a prominent sponsor of a local arts festival, and yields benefits from having their logo printed on flyers, banners, and other promotional materials distributed at the event. However, YouTube videos among members of the public that are likely to look favorably on the firm’s sponsorship, yet did not attend the event. Ergo, another reason to utilize social media as one component of a CSR effort is to ensure two things: first, that individuals that are not directly exposed to the primary CSR effort (i.e., hosting an event, sponsoring the construction of a park, etc.) are made aware of that effort.
Second, publicizing an event, the launch of a longer-term effort, or similar CSR strategy with images and videos posted on social media websites is a means to immortalize the event’s impact; rather than fading from the public’s memory, a long-term public record will be established, whereby the CSR effort will be perennially discovered, or rediscovered, by members of the public during months and years to come.
Finally: employing social media publishing as an element of business strategies is increasingly becoming a necessity. For instance, a 2012 survey conducted by Business Network International determined that about 75% of business owners surveyed had been discouraged from dealing with another company because of their “poor use of social media”.The fact that social media has an impact on business to business relationships might seem surprising at first – until one considers that ultimately, the decision-makers at businesses are the same sorts of people that utilize social media websites. And many business owners are beginning to realize that today’s consumer depends quite heavily on social media not only for entertainment and networking, but also as a key source of information.
For instance, one public service project carried out by a dentist in Lancashire, England – a series of YouTube videos offering frank advice and information about dental care and oral health – resulted in a drastic increase in the number of patient inquiries that the dental practice received every day, which was key in improving revenues. This case is a great example of how even if CSR efforts publicized on social media platforms don’t immediately result in sales leads, they can increase the probability that social media users will one day offer an opportunity for the firm to profit.
Hence, social media usage should always be considered as a component of a firm’s CSR strategy. In many cases, an expansion of existing social media marketing and research efforts should be sufficient to increase the effectiveness of a firm’s CSR campaigns, enabling the firm to gain additional insight into the impact that their efforts have on the public.