Social Media Engagement and CSR: Q&A with Andrea Learned

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Social Media Engagement and CSR: Q&A with Andrea Learned

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[Q&A] Social Media Engagement and #CSR: @Versaic Interviews @AndreaLearned

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016 - 12:45pm

CAMPAIGN: Getting to Impact


If you keep up with Sustainability Thought Leadership, you likely follow Andrea Learned (@AndreaLearned) on Twitter or have read her articles in the Huffington Post

Andrea is founder and president of Learned On, LLC, a professional development consultancy focused on positioning sustainability leaders to leave a deep digital footprint of positive impact. Specifically, she coaches business and nonprofit executives in using their most authentic “voice” in blog post writing and on social media.

Andrea has been in marketing consulting-related fields for 25+ years, which includes over 10 years of deep expertise in marketing to women (She co-authored the 2004 book, Don’t Think Pink). She regularly shares her unique perspective and curates business leadership topics via her Twitter feed and blog, Learned On

Versaic: What drew you to the CSR field?

Andrea: I was looking for ways to leverage all my understanding of how women make decisions into what I was most passionate about – environmental and social responsibility.  I was influenced, also, by the fact that I was living in Burlington VT at the time, and the bulk of my friends worked for the responsible businesses that seem to naturally start up in that state. 

I no longer wanted to help companies sell products or services to women. Instead, I wanted to use what I knew about how women make decisions as consumers and translate that into the sustainability space. Very quickly, that led to me really digging into leadership. Who are the most successful CSR/sustainability leaders, and why? What are their leadership traits? 

I then “got serious” (2009-2011) and got my MA in Sustainable Business and Communities from Goddard College, writing my thesis on exactly that topic. (I published an easier to read version of part of that via my Solutions Journal piece: Gender and the Sustainable Brain in 2011).

In the middle of that transition, I realized that the blog post writing I was already doing combined with Twitter would be an excellent strategy for transitioning my existing platform/network toward “the gender lens” in sustainability. And Twitter has become an amazing tool for what my work is all about now – consulting with business leaders on how to develop digital leadership.

Versaic: How can brands be more effective in how they engage with people online and share their CSR story?

Andrea: I focus on the B2B side.  From that perspective, companies need to remember to get past broadcasting.  You can’t assume that your story and variations of it are what people are dying to read. (They likely aren’t.)  The fact is, by engaging with audiences in your topic area and curating social media streams amplifying industry innovations and successes - and by writing content about OTHERS in that and related fields (as exemplified by what you, Versaic, are doing by interviewing me) – you build a “love” foundation.  And, that creates a strong base for when you do share your own news and announcements, and hope that others will spread the word.

So – I see B2B “love giving” as the key to engagement building. It is an often-neglected step in the CSR/Sustainability story sharing work, but it opens up so much opportunity when done well.

Versaic: What tips can you share with companies who would like to increase the impact of their CSR programs?

Andrea: Let the employees and your employee engagement efforts take the lead. They will likely be the perfect brand CSR ambassadors, and will collectively tell your organization’s story - and at many more touch points than you’d ever be able to plan around. I see so much power in the human scale for collective impact. 

Versaic: Are there any emerging trends that you think will shape the way that brands approach CSR?

Andrea: I see more companies becoming more comfortable “claiming” a particular focus or two area within their CSR umbrella, rather than trying to superficially tend to it all – and dilute all efforts. This decision, up front, helps them dial in with their philanthropy decisions, select their volunteering opportunities, and identify which causes to consistently support. In my work, that translates to then giving an executive some parameters for conversations to follow, influencers to strategically reach out to, partnerships to pursue, and so on. If the whole organization claims their key areas of sustainability or CSR intent, everything employees and leaders do will only cross-fertilize and amplify efforts. 


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Keywords: Media & Communications | Andrea Learned | Business & Trade | Diversity & Human Resources | Education | Philanthropy | Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship | Technology | Versaic

CAMPAIGN: Getting to Impact