As the world continues to watch the devastation caused by the BP oil spill, it shines the light much brighter on the impact that major companies have on society while increasing consumer concerns about business practices.
Build Your Defense Shield
Especially in times of crisis, it's a company's obligation to be as open and transparent as possible, as well as to communicate most expeditiously to those consumers impacted. The most efficient way to do this today is online. Yet before a crisis erupts, no matter what the root of the issue, companies should cushion themselves by leveraging the good work they're already doing. Building a network of supporters over time that aligns with a company's values and actions only help protect a company in times of trouble.
Take a look at the company's philanthropic endeavors and cause-related initiatives, especially in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). There are a few straightforward social media strategies that companies should implement to highlight their commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) to help build their social media shield and gain supporters.
Don't be Shy. Share it!
If a company is "doing good," don't be shy about talking about it. The taboo of never tooting your own horn with a press release about your good deeds clearly has crumbled in corporate America, and companies today are not only promoting philanthropy through social networks, they're building unique Facebook pages and Twitter profiles for these important programs. All in the spirit of sharing good news, companies have a huge opportunity to ride the high wave of CSR through social media, spread the word, amplify their cause(s) and galvanize powerful network of friends.
Be Committed to CSR
As mentioned, it's critical to be transparent when it comes to a company's CSR program, especially when harnessing social networking platforms. By transparent, I mean keep it real and no lip service. Online consumers are savvy and being open and communicative is vital to reputation management.
Showcase the strides that the company has made for the cause, whether this means funds donated, awareness raised, consumers reached, beneficiaries helped, communities improved, etc. Highlight the company's long-term commitment and that of its supporters and partners. Rally third-party endorsers to help share your stories.
A good example of a company's CSR successes is Target® with its long-standing commitment to schools and education. Most recently, Target partnered with Search Institute® to develop the 'Turn Summer Play into Summer Learning' series on its Facebook page, which provides parents with fun, weekly tips to help their child's mind stay active during the summer with research on how it makes a positive impact on child development. While demonstrating the company's commitment to education, Target also created a local solution to a national issue by personally connecting with parents through a timely and innovative social media campaign.
Seek to Engage
As the adage goes, "there's power in numbers" and social media provides companies - who actively engage - with an influential, built-in network of passionate consumers that become followers of a brand when interested in what it's doing. One way to build a following and keep them involved is by deploying a fun, creative way for supporters to participate and share with online friends.
For a real-world case of this strategy, take a look at Future Friendly - a program developed by Procter & Gamble (P&G) to help consumers save energy, conserve water and reduce waste. As part of the program's social media initiative, it created 'The Future Friendly Challenge' on Facebook, which encouraged participation by offering each follower:
• A P&G donation of one day of clean drinking water to Children's Safe Drinking Water
• A pledge to commit to saving energy, conserving water or reducing waste for 90 days
• A custom app to post participation in 'The Challenge' to their Facebook wall and their friends' home pages
• Tool to challenge their friends, send a page invitation and share their 'Challenge' tips with others based on their experiences
Through this simple Facebook strategy, this online initiative generated strong ROE (Return On Engagement) over just a few months:
• More than 20,000 followers have taken the challenge and committed to saving energy, water or reducing waste for 90 days - this translates to over 20,000 days of clean drinking water donated
• More than 7,000 posts have been made by supports with their tips and experiences on how to save energy, conserve water and reduce waste
• There is an active and engaged community among the nearly 48,000 followers
These two examples are CSR social media strategies that have undoubtedly amplified the good actions of these companies all while generating droves of supporters. From raising awareness, to connecting with consumers in the way they want to engage and fostering positive action, leveraging CSR in the social media world can strengthen consumer trust and loyalty, encourage followers (and their friends) to take action and participate, and put a halo over the brand that dives in.