Communication of CSR through Social Media

Are you planning to use social media to communicate your company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy and activities? What are some things to take note of when using social media for CSR?

This article shares our thoughts on the communication of CSR through social media, which we presented at last week’s International Singapore Compact CSR Summit 2012.

The International Singapore Compact CSR Summit 2012 was held in Singapore from 27 – 28 Sep with over 400 business leaders, CSR practitioners, government officials, academics, students and non-governmental organisations coming together to share and discuss trends, threats and opportunities for CSR. This annual event, in its 4th year, is organised by the Singapore Compact for CSR – a national body promoting CSR in Singapore.

In our presentation, we outlined the social media landscape and shared 3 main points for companies and organisations to keep in mind when using social media for CSR: Listen and Understand, Tell Stories and Share, and Engage and Be Transparent.

The Social Media Landscape

Social media gives everyone, including companies, organisations and individuals, a voice and makes it easier for you to share your thoughts, stories and comments with a wider audience. There are multiple social media platforms (and increasing every year) available for you to choose from, as seen from the variety in the social media landscape below.

Remember that social media are just tools which you could use to communicate your CSR, and you would still need to integrate your social media communication with the usual corporate communications, marketing and branding strategy.

More importantly, you don’t have to use all the social media tools. You just have to identify and select the tools that are suitable and relevant for your CSR communication with your stakeholders. For example, you can use a blog to share CSR updates; use Facebook to connect with your customers; use Flickr to share photos and YouTube to share videos of your CSR activities; or use LinkedIn to connect with your business partners and suppliers.

1. Listen and Understand

It’s important to listen and understand what your stakeholders are talking about your company or brand, and the concerns they have. Do they have a positive, neutral or negative image of your company? What CSR issues are they concerned about regarding your company and your industry?

Before you start on social media, you should listen and understand your stakeholders first. Even when you are already using social media, you should always monitor and listen to your stakeholders. You can use third party software or engage consultants to help you monitor keywords and sentiment on social media. Or you can use the following 2 free tools to help you get a feel of what’s happening on social media, such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

Google Alerts is a tool to monitor updates of the latest relevant Google results (news, blogs, videos, discussions, and books) via email or RSS. You can create an alert using your company name as the search term, and monitor what is being said about your company. You can also create a free dashboard using Google Reader to display the RSS feeds from Google Alerts.

Social Mention is a social media search and analysis tool that aggregates user generated content from across the social media landscape such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and displays them in a single platform. You can search your company name and find out the mentions on social media as well as the sentiment and top keywords.

2. Tell Stories and Share

There are many stories along your CSR journey that you can tell and share with your stakeholders. Besides using a CSR or sustainability report to share what your company is doing on CSR, why not tell your CSR story (the good and the bad) and share them on social media using blogs, photos and videos?

A company’s CSR journey is a neverending story, and is full of ups and downs. It is basically similar to a typical hero’s story. The story arc of any hero’s journey always start with a normal person finding the true path or gaining enlightenment after an event (such as meeting a mentor or gaining some special power or tools), who then faces challenges and overcomes them with the gained wisdom and the help of a group of like-minded people, and thus gaining victory in the end.

Likewise, a profit-driven company continues business-as-usual until it realises the need to embrace CSR after an event (such as meeting a sustainability expert, reading a book on CSR, attending a CSR conference, seeing competitors embrace CSR, or understanding the need for CSR from customers, NGOs or suppliers). The company embarks on its CSR journey but faces challenges along the way, but with the CSR team and management working together, the company manages to successfully integrate CSR into its business and have good relationships with its customers and stakeholders.

There are many stories to tell and share along your CSR journey. Here’s one example of how a local company, NTUC FairPrice, tells its CSR story using social media.

NTUC FairPrice uses its blog and Facebook page to tell CSR stories. For example, one of the blog posts is on how the company reduces energy consumption across its outlets, while another post shares the volunteer support and donations for Ren Ci Hospital.

NTUC FairPrice’s Facebook page shares photos on their CSR journey, such as winning an award for Best Workplace at the CSR Summit, and raising rice donations for the needy.

3. Engage and Be Transparent

As your company communicates CSR through social media, remember that everyone has a voice on social media and you will face both positive and negative comments from your stakeholders. What matters most is how you would respond to the negative comments and to be truthful in what you say and do.

Engage with your stakeholders on social media and respond to both positive and negative comments, and don’t just delete comments because you don’t like what is being said. As long as the comments are not about race or religion, you should respond to the comments with your stand and with facts, or even invite those making the comments for a frank discussion (you can choose to ignore trolls who are just out to incite trouble).

At the end of the day, be truthful and transparent in what you say and do for your CSR, and this would help to prevent or reduce the negative comments. If you are not doing well in certain aspects of your CSR, admit it and commit to take steps to resolve them.

Here’s 2 examples of local companies and the different approaches they took in engaging with their stakeholders on social media:

The boss of Sakae Sushi recently commented in the media that it was difficult to employ Singaporeans to wash dishes even if they are paying a salary of $3,000. On the company’s Facebook page, he faced some negative comments on whether the job salary is true, on employee welfare and the tough working conditions. The company responded promptly to the comments and explained their position and provided the facts, instead of just deleting the negative comments.

Last year, the animal welfare NGO, Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES), launched a campaign called “Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins” to persuade Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) to free the 25 wildcaught dolphins bought for its new Marine Life Park. RWS did not fully address the concerns of their stakeholders and also deleted the Facebook comments questioning their decision on the dolphins, which just led to more negative comments being posted.

If your company has a CSR or sustainability report, you could also make the report more dynamic and engaging by allowing stakeholders to post comments on the report, share the content easily, and allowing them to show what they care about. In this social media age, companies should have dynamic reporting which makes it easy for their stakeholders and the public to communicate with them, to provide feedback, and to share the company’s activities, and environmental and social impacts with their friends.

The SAP 2010 Sustainability Report is a good example of dynamic reporting, which includes dashboards for environment, social and economic performance, and the ability to post and rate comments, to share content via Facebook and Twitter, and to create a matrix to tell SAP which sustainability issues are important to stakeholders and SAP.

Live the Truth

When communicating CSR through social media, remember to listen to your stakeholders and understand their concerns, tell and share your stories, and engage with your stakeholders in a transparent manner. And always remember to speak and live the truth in your business, because there’s no place to hide in this open social media era.

Be interesting. Tell the truth. And if you can’t tell the truth, change what you’re doing so you can. In other words, live the truth. – Jonah Sachs, CEO of Free Range Studios

What are your thoughts? Are you using social media for communicating your CSR? What’s your experience or challenges in using social media? Please leave your comments in the box below.

Image: Social Media Landscape 2011 by fredcavazza via Flickr; Screenshot of Google Alerts; Screenshot of Social Mention; Screenshot of NTUC FairPrice CSR Blog; Screenshot of NTUC FairPrice Facebook Page – award; Screenshot of NTUC FairPrice Facebook Page – rice donation; Screenshots of Sakae Sushi Facebook Page newspaper and comments; Screenshots of Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins and Wildsingapore post; Screenshot of SAP 2010 Sustainability Report; Screenshot of SAP 2010 Sustainability Report matrix

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