Social media is changing the way top-down companies are run, affecting recruiting, communications, research and development, and even how things are made. But have you considered how social networking is enabling companies to address social change?
An esteemed panel at last week’s Social Media Week session Putting The Social In CSR presented emerging practices in corporate social responsibility and how they are increasingly tied to social networks.
Bonin Bough, global director of Digital & Social Media at panel sponsor PepsiCo, acknowledged that sheer size gives his team an obligation to do good. “Big companies have big levers they can pull,” he said, “such as reducing the plastic in our bottles by 50% and developing biodegradable chip bags.” Their corporate mandate, “performance with purpose,” comes directly from CEO Indra Nooyi.
Companies of all sizes are trying to create brand awareness and give consumers a reason to consistently opt into a relationship with their products. And they’re right to pursue the social responsibility tack, according to Chrysi Philalithes from the (RED) campaign, since “70% of Americans think businesses can make more difference in the world than governments.” In other words, they have the consumers’ imprimatur.
It’s important to understand, though, that CSR is changing with the times. “There’s a shift away from ‘buy this product and $X will be donated to a cause’ towards the concept of companies as conveners,” said Virginia Miracle, lead social media and CSR strategist at Ogilvy. “Social engagement is empowering employees to do, and hence form a deeper engagement with customers.” She cited TimeWarner Cable as a prime example. Their employees recently challenged customers via social networks to make “connections” pledges that connect youths with after-school programs. “So the company becomes the facilitator, and their success is measured in terms of the number of minds they’re connecting to needed services.”
Other organizations are setting up social platforms as places for their employees to connect around sustainability, social change and community service activities. But unlike traditional intranets, these platforms connect to networks such as Facebook and Twitter, where their employees already are communicating daily. “It’s a way for employees to show each other the difference they’re making, to garner support from their colleagues and to get the word out to the world at large in a quick and inexpensive way,” panelist Deb Berman explained. Her company, JustMeans, creates such corporate communities, integrates them with popular social networks and aggregates follower data via back-end analytic tools.
The bottom line coming out of this session is that the cultural movement we see today toward citizen philanthropy — the desire to make change, transform humanity, do good — is being embraced by corporate America. At the same time, there’s a fundamental shift happening in how we communicate with one another. This shift has increased the authenticity of the conversation. “Social platforms enable people to bring value to other people,” Bough said. “[As the Pepsi Refresh Campaign awards $10K grants for community projects,] people are thanking Pepsi for providing the opportunity for them to bring good to their neighborhood.”
Image credit, Devonyu, via iStock