Blending social media and CSR

I have to be honest, I normally skip over any blog that even mentions Twitter, as I feel it has become an over-talked about topic recently. However, when the blog titled Social Media Provides the Tools to Make Positive Change popped up on my Google Reader last week, I had to take note.

The blog posted on the Communications Overtones blog page discusses how Michelle Greer, a web marketing strategist and blogger from Austin, recently won a social media award for a Twestival she organized to coordinate blood drives for Burmese refugees.

Although the blog never directly mentions anything public relations-related, I was immediately drawn to this topic as a potential tactic for a corporate social responsibly campaign (CSR), a campaign through which companies participate in activities related to public interests, while improving the company image. Corporations are constantly looking for ways to form mutually beneficial relationships with their communities, and what better way than through everyone’s new favorite medium – the Internet.

Using social media to power a CSR campaign is a strategically sound decision for a number of reasons. For one, social media is a quick and effective way for organizations to reach their publics. Currently, many companies discuss their CSR efforts on the company blog, but why not take that a step further and use the social media Web site as a platform for the campaign, rather than just a medium to discuss it? Also, social media Web sites are effective because they allow public relations professionals to disseminate controlled information that will reach target publics, those that are already loyal readers of the company’s blogs.

In my opinion, companies have a lot to gain by conducting CSR campaigns on social media Web sites. However, some may believe that social media Web sites would not be appropriate for some CSR efforts. What is your opinion? Do you think social media and CSR are mutually exclusive topics or that we can find a way to blend the two, so as to create communications results? If you disagree with using social media for CSR, what do you think is the best way for companies to conduct and report on CSR efforts?

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6 Responses to Blending social media and CSR

  1. Mickey Siegel says:

    I think that you some it up best when you mention that some campaigns may not be best fit for social media. Social media is always a good way to get the word out and the point of CSR is to make a positive impact in the community while getting recognition for your company. There does need to be something to back up the social media campaign because it can only go so far. I really liked how Michelle Greer paired up twitter with the Twestival to get so many participants.

  2. cconeder says:

    I agree, the whole Twitter thing drives me crazy! It definitely has been talked about so much lately it kind of becomes old to read or be interested in anything to do with it. However, the fact that Michelle used it for such an amazing cause is awesome. I also think that some campaigns don’t really flow well with social media, but in this case her ideas were so successful and it has in a way made me rethink my feelings about Twitter!

  3. plepkows says:

    @ Mickey Siegel: Yeah, I definitely agree with you that social media would have to be paired with another campaign deliverable to be successful, in most cases. As powerful as social media has become, I think it may still be too early to initiate an entire campaign on a social media Web site. But maybe that is where the industry is headed.

    @ cconeder: I agree, understanding the goals of the campaign is critical. Before beginning any campaign, it is necessary to determine what strategies and tactics – perhaps utilizing social media – are most effective and appropriate in respect to achieving the campaign goals.

  4. gbohulan says:

    I think reaching out to communities is a great thing. In this day and age, online communites are no exceptions. Web site that have created communities like Flickr or facebook have thrived. Corporations cannot ignore that because the communication results would only be positive if done the right way.

    We are learning this in our JMC473 class right now. It’s an interesting topic as our field is changing and evolving. Great post.

  5. plepkows says:

    @gbohulan What class is JMC473? How was this topic presented in your other class?

  6. kamichat says:

    I am so very late to this discussion, but I am glad you took this the step further and sussed out the PR implications. Social media networks (Twitter, Facebook and the like) are just communication tools, albeit powerful ones.

    As PR professionals we need to look for ways to use these tools to not just enrich our corporate clients, but to help those clients also advance the public interest as well. That was Michelle’s message, let’s not just admire our shiny, new tools, but let’s also DO something of value with them.

    And to clarify, Michelle raised funds for Charity:Water with her Twestival efforts AND she coordinated blood drives for Burmese refugees in a seperate campaign.

    One great blogger that talks about similar ways to use social media for social causes is Beth Kanter:

    Kami Huyse, Communication Overtones

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