I share a love for social media with many in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability. It is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn that the most evocative conversations happen, contentious debates take place, and strategic relationships form. Consumers have taken to these channels to pursue their pet causes and peeves, and advocates have jumped in, to massive appreciation and feedback.
Last week, for example, corporate governance writer Lucy Marcus discussed how a particular Groupon deal annoyed her enough to tweet about it. Her tweets managed to raise several eyebrows and led to an eventual resolution by the Groupon team. Meanwhile we have Twitter and Facebook playing a crucial role in the recent London riots and the Middle East turmoil. Often they emerge as the only way in for communities and individuals to share their voices.
For me these social media channels have held immense strategic value since I first started using them in 2009, which I recently detailed in "The Power of 140 Characters: Why Twitter Works For Me." As David Connor, a prominent CSR writer in the U.K., puts it, the true value of Twitter lies is in the simplicity of engagement and the tangible sense of community it provides.
But Connor also brings up the matters of transparency and corporate accountability.
And here is where most companies struggle with the plethora of choices available today inthe domain of social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and the new kids on the block, BranchOut and Google Plus, to name just a few.
Some companies are certainly dipping their toes in recently, with varied results. Best Buy tested the immensity of these tools by hosting a live webinar to discuss its annual Sustainability Report,drawing a significantly positive response. Timberland launched a new CSR communications portal early this month to not only encourage open conversations around its products but also to compel consumers to become part of its sustainability initiatives.
How helpful are these channels in a corporate context? In an attempt to dig deeper and plumb the multiple relationships between social media and reputation, employee retention, and transparency, BRANDfog, a social media and CSR consulting firm, launched a survey last week that promises to answer some of these questions.
Social Media and Leadership: Should CEOs be engaging on Twitter? Does that help gain trust with customers, loyalty with employees, and/or raise the bar on transparency?
Recruitment Decisions: Has social media become a benchmarking tool for prospective candidates in their recruitment decisions? Does tweeting and liking help managers gain popularity with employees?
CSR and Sustainability: Does a presence on social media help companies illustrate their brand values, mission and corporate citizenship?
What do you think? Share your perspective. Take this short survey and make a difference. Is social media emerging as the differentiator in today’s crowded market of jobs, business, and consumer loyalty?