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How to Leverage Social Media to Maximize Your CSR Efforts

Social media has become the primary hub for marketing among brands of every size. Open platforms for engagement are an enticing and powerful tool, and the focus has really shifted from traditional media to digital advertising campaigns. Whole companies grow from bootstrap startups to multi-million dollars companies using an almost entire social media strategy.

Lately we have been seeing a different way in which these platforms are being used by businesses. As corporate responsibility has become more of a deal breaker with millennial shoppers (the biggest profit generators in the economy today), businesses are taking note.

The years of greedy baby boomer consumers are over, and brands are beginning to pay for shady or dangerous past practices. Transparency is demanded, former and current sins are more easily exposed, and corporations are eager to prove that they are philanthropic. Even the most questionable companies are launching socially responsible programs to help communities across the globe.

Social media is a launching pad for many of these programs, alerting both the media and consumers as to their efforts. In many cases they have used Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites to maximize their results.

Following In Bigger Footsteps

 Following In Bigger Footsteps

As Salesforce CEO’s Marc Benioff has shown us, you don’t have to be a massive conglomerate with millions a year in charitable givings to make a different. His 1-1-1 Model, which is promoted through his company, supports business being more socially responsible within the framework that works for them.

It works by pledging just one percent to a cause. That could be 1% of profit, personal wealth, time, or products/services.

Kohli Ventures is another great example. The Chairman and CEO Tej Kohli believes that philanthropy should be wholly integrated through the company’s business model and investments. This means every business investment and activity must demonstrate a long term, positive social impact for the many

While you may or may not choose to follow by this model, it shows that you yourself have the capability of being socially responsible with your business. And you can use social media to boost your efforts.

Haagen-Dazs is a great example. They have been a part of a program to fund research for disappearing bee colonies around the world. Their Help The Honeybees campaign started by donating a fraction of the sale on special products to organizations dedicated to saving bees and reversing their impending extinction.

Using a Twitter hashtag campaign, they managed to generate millions of impressions, and raise thousands of dollars in the process. They far exceeded their expectations, and leveraged the social web to increase awareness of the cause.

It is a perfect glance into the way social media can be used to further CSR campaigns.

Leveraging Social Media For Your Brand’s CSR

Leveraging Social Media For Your Brand's CSR

To be honest, using social media for CSR isn’t much different than any other social media tactics. The only real distinction is the aim in your engagement. But a couple of tips could help you make the most of the tool.

  1. Keep an Eye on Issues Important to Your Demographic – When selecting a specific area to target, what you are passionate about should be balanced against what your customers are passionate about. If it is a topic they are discussing and care about, you are more likely to get them on board with assisting through their dollars.
  2. Give Regular Updates – Once you have begun your efforts, it is important that you let your audience know. Not as a way of bragging about your good works, but of showing how the people who buy your product are helping the world through their support. Use this as an opportunity for storytelling, giving an inside look into the good you are your customers are doing together
  3. Attracted Interested Influencers – When actor Tom Hiddleston joined up with UNICEF to help children in need, the project was launched on Twitter. It became a popular topic, and a great deal of support came from his followers who stood behind him in his efforts. Social media is  great way to attract influencers who would be interesting in lending a hand, and so reaching out to the many who follow them.
  4. Really Listen and Respond – Sometimes people can be critical, which is a negative reality in the world of nonprofit and charity work. They may feel you aren’t doing enough, for example, or be cynical when addressing your reasons. Don’t let it get to you. Listen (genuinely), respond (sincerely), and don’t just engaging with the people who are being positive. This is a rounded process, not a square one… you don’t get to skip the corners just because you dislike the edges.
  5. Remain Consistent – Like all social media campaigns, consistency is important. You should be working tirelessly to ensure you are getting the message out. Post on a daily basis, promote your program, and talk about the issue itself without the self-congratulatory pat on the back that comes with reporting on the results. Make people aware of the problem itself, and what you are wanting to solve.
  6. Engage In Hashtag Marketing – The honeybee example talked about earlier in the article was successful largely due to a hashtag campaign that took off. In fact, non-profits have regularly used hashtags for promotion to great effect. For instance, the #WhyIStayed generated an overwhelming response, and helped shine light on the problem of domestic violence and abuse. Consider branding a social hashtag that can be used across platforms.
  7. Become a Visual Marketer – Start thinking about images. They are more memorable and these days also easy to create. Kristina Trood over at Results First gives a good roundup of Instagram visual marketing here. Give it a read.
  8. Consider Keeping Your CSR On a Separate Account – A lot of brands have opened whole new accounts in order to run their charity campaigns. I think this is a great idea. It will keep anything meant to generate profit separate, while still impacting the popularity and reputation of your brand. It also bypasses a lot of those sticky issues of what does and doesn’t constitute profit pandering versus genuine attempts at helping the world.

Image credits: 1, 2

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