Social Media and CSR: Buzz Words, Trends, Topics, Opportunities for Business and Nonprofits

Social Media and CSR: Buzz Words, Trends, Topics, Opportunities for Business and Nonprofits

By John Howell, Online Media Director, 3BL Media

Some days, it seems as if every other blog, news brief, RSS feed, and newsletter hails social media as the great communications opportunity of the 21st Century for news and information related to corporate social responsibility.

As someone immersed in this new and rapidly growing field, I can report that yes, social media does offer amazing possibilities, especially for companies and organizations working with all things CSR. The Twitter-Facebook-LinkedIn tool kit seems a potential game changer for leveraging the transparency, encouraging the dialogue, and soliciting the feedback that CSR stakeholders require.

There are also, as always, a few things you should know. Call them the “3-D Rules” of social media for CSR. Pay attention to them and you’ll get an in-depth picture of the opportunity—and the questions still to be answered.

Definitions. We nod when we hear “social media” as if we all agree on what it is. While there is a general idea that is generally accepted, there is debate on whether all social media is effective for business purposes.

Twitter is great for short, headlined, real-time info but how many are reading past the Tweet to the URL? The LinkedIn audience is very focused in its interests—how many look sideways to related but separate topics? And Facebook, in many ways the most tantalizing platform due to its size and flexibility, is a bit of a puzzle to organize for business communications purposes: how does its blend of the personal and professional best present information?

We might look to an analogy with corporate social responsibility, often used as a catchall term for everything from sustainability to diversity. Companies and organizations have had to wrestle with the tough questions of priorities and outcomes—you just can’t execute everything CSR at once or all of it in the same way.

Distinctions. Twitter is not LinkedIn. Facebook is neither. When you get down into the nitty gritty of actually doing the communicating—writing, editing, posting, replying, commenting—each platform has its own qualities, possibilities, and even “voice.” That is, what works in one will not work in the other without acknowledging those differences. That means subtle but real changes in language, content, and tone.

These differences make all the difference. If you want to be effective as a social media communicator for CSR-related business and nonprofits, you have to learn how each works best. Same goes for corporate social responsibility itself—what works well in one category may not even apply in another. The answers to these challenges are very much in-progress.

Directions. At 3BL Media, our goal is to distribute CSR-related information in a way that makes ideas available for action: news you can use. The Really Big Question from where I sit is, how does the conversational, interactive communications mode result in bullet-pointed takeaways that add real, tangible value to CSR-related business and nonprofit activity?

At 3BL Media, we are finding the right answers to these complex questions—so far, it’s all good. Stay tuned , , , ,