Today more than ever, companies are under pressure to be good corporate citizens. They are expected to be at the forefront of change in the world. Consumers now expect these companies to be working alongside them to make the world a better place. And the key to making all this happen is social media. Social media is vital to corporate social responsibility for several key reasons.
Every company has constituents and stakeholders, and it’s important to have transparent, open dialogue with these stakeholders. It’s all about creating an open community, where it’s OK to voice your opinions and make new suggestions. Some of the greatest brands today are those that make their views heard about sweatshop labor conditions, or the state of the environment and global warming, or the need for multicultural diversity. Just name a major issue, and you can find a company supporting it.
And sometimes, these stakeholders are people you might not expect. For example, consider your typical energy company – the stakeholders of that company are more than Wall Street shareholders, they also include people who want to see the world become a greener, more sustainable place. These stakeholders want to see energy companies become the champion of clean, sustainable energy.
So it’s no wonder the biggest energy companies in the world now run extensive social media campaigns, showcasing all the ways that they are trying to make the world a better place. In the past, companies might have just issued a press release about a new wind farm or solar plant they created. Now, they are maintaining an open, thriving conversation on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Companies need to be more than just “following the rules” – they need to be taking active steps to influence customers to make the right decisions. Just think of how many subtle reminders you get throughout the day to convert to paperless billing (it’s better for the environment!), to donate a percentage of every transaction to a charitable cause (every penny counts!), or to donate used, unwanted items for a good cause (you can make a difference!).
With a single hashtag, companies can start entire social movements. With tens of thousands of followers (if not more), corporations have the power to turn people into conscientious consumers. Thanks to social media, even the simple act of buying your daily coffee can turn into a social statement. For example, are you buying “corporate coffee” or are you buying ethically sourced coffee beans from a fair trade coffee vendor? Or think about the clothes you buy. Are you buying your clothing from a company that is pocketing all the profits, or are you buying it from a company that is sweatshop-free and using only recycled or organic materials?
Finally, it’s impossible to ignore how social media can help to activate a company’s own employees. Social media offers plenty of reminders of how a company’s employees are participating in local volunteer efforts, or leading the force for change in the local community. A simple Instagram photo of a company’s employees planting a new tree in a local community park goes a long way to demonstrating a company’s real mission statement in the world.
In short, social media is now vital to corporate responsibility. It’s more than just a new form of PR to message an audience – it’s about activating a core base of fans, customers and employees to bring real change to the world.
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*This post originally appeared on socialmedia hq.