Because brands have been typically tied to one-way communication models, their voice focuses mainly on the sales channel, rather than the community. Social media has done much to change this dynamic. However, the "corporate experience" is still the first door a customer or new prospect usually must travel through. And in order to better that overall appearance and allow the "softer" side to shine through, companies are integrating corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts into their brand marketing.
However, the public or employees often don't really see or understand what's going on behind the scenes at a company. Keep in mind: Not only your employees, but your customers are your greatest sales people. Ensuring that they understand what you are doing holistically with your corporate social responsibility efforts is key to growing as a brand.
As you've learned from countless articles you've read, transparency and full disclosure are key to creating a stronger, more efficient social business. And thanks to social media culture, companies recognize the need for a stronger, more public social responsibility strategy. The social media spotlight garners accolades and new business for companies that give back. All the more reason to create a strong corporate social responsibility strategy. Here are five steps to help develop a corporate social responsibility strategy using social media:
1. Lead from the top.
You must have a long-term vision and commitment from the executive level when building your CSR program. Having C-level buy-in can also greatly enhance overall brand positioning and provide your supporters the opportunity to engage and promote your brand's activity with no doubt lingering.
Blake Mycoskie, CEO of Toms Shoes, is a great example of a strong leader. He readily uses Twitter to spread the word of the brand and his story. It already had a unique approach to CSR molded into its business model: Through its One for One Movement, Toms Shoes donates one pair of shoes to a child in need every time a customer buys a pair.
2. Always be listening and learning.
Your brand must constantly monitor and listen to the needs of the communities where you do business and then determine the most suitable approach to address their social issues. Whether it's providing assistance to homeless, by being present at food banks, building homes, or helping educators by donating materials, time, or even money - all of this helps to humanize the brand while strengthening the community at the same time.
By searching Twitter using hashtags such as #CSR, #sustainability, or doing some Google searches around CSR, you will discover some great examples on how you can incorporate a well-thoughtout CSR strategy for your brand and socialize it.
Companies must leverage social media to encourage users to also take part, while promoting your own brand's initiatives. Yahoo runs a campaign called "How Good Grows", a crowdsourcing initiative as part of its CSR efforts; users and employees share random acts of kindness and filter it out through their respective Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter profiles, allowing others to engage (share, comment, or like) with the posted act.
After the first year of "How Good Grows," Yahoo went one step further and featured the top 10 inspiring acts, conducting separate interviews with each person, and using it more as a larger public relations play. The effort helps spread positive feedback about the brand and keeps the story growing, offering a larger viral play in the end.
Once you have built your CSR strategy, make sure you talk about what you are doing with your CSR initiatives. When people hear about acts of compassion, they are more likely to take interest and then take part in your experience. By using not just your social media channels, such as your blog, Twitter, or Facebook page, but also your inbound channels hold just as much value - such as employee meetings, board meetings and press briefs. By maximizing the coverage of your efforts - it brings attention to what your brand is doing full circle.
Don't waste your CSR efforts. Companies focus so much attention on the sales channel, which in today's economy seems almost unavoidable. But it's crucial to consider either allocating internal resources to an ongoing CSR strategy effort, or if you can, hire key individuals to grow and properly develop a strategy for your company's CSR efforts.
Your customers are your greatest sales people. Ensure that they understand what you are doing from a CSR perspective. "Doing good" can actually be good for business.
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Nick Cifuentes is the global social media director at Ancestry.com, the world's largest online resource for family history, with 2 million paying subscribers as of July 2012. An industry veteran, Nick has worked in digital media and marketing since 2004, functioning in strategy, copywriting, analytics, search, planning, online media, and social media. He is a frequent guest writer on various industry blogs, and publishes his own blogs as well, including one focusing on digital media, and another on his side passion, ultramarathon running.
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