There are several ways that companies can utilize social media in congruence with their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) cause marketing. One is to set up a platform to regularly discuss their ongoing programs and mission. Another is to use their existing social media pages to demonstrate the results of an annual CSR report. Finally, the third method (that I will focus on) is short-term campaigns relating to a particular cause.
Companies are struggling to effectively execute their short-term CSR campaigns on social media. This method of cause marketing has become increasingly popular but many companies are falling flat. While proving to be a challenge, the intersection of CSR and Social Media has incredible potential.
After doing extensive research, I was unable to find a standard that effectively valued the requirements of all stakeholders. I have developed a model that outlines how to effectively create a short term CSR based social media campaign.
Based on my current research and previous knowledge of the field, I have determined that there are three main groups that demand value creation.
The first group is the consumer. Social media allows for an “active” consumer who has an expectation to be engaged. Value for an “active” consumer is created through direct engagement. This engagement must encourage the consumer to create and share content that personally involves them.
Secondly their needs to be value created around a cause. Because this is CSR related, it is essential that a particular cause is impacted. Businesses can assure this by leveraging relevant and effective partnerships.
Finally, the company itself demands benefit. It does not benefit businesses to get involved without direct or indirect profit for the bottom line. To ensure this, the campaigns mission should align with the company’s core business strategy.
Both the cause and the company are central to traditional CSR thinking. Social Media introduces the “active” consumer as a stakeholder, forcing companies to them all. I found three specific campaigns that successfully create value for two players but are unable to satisfy the third.
Prudential Financial was in the process of building a new office for their headquarters in Newark New Jersey, a neighborhood that they have operated in for the past 140 years. Along with this construction they issued a campaign to highlight the development of their community with the #20StoriesofStrength. They created a YouTube video advertising the campaign, and shared on their company Instagram stories of local community heroes and organizations.
While Prudential attempted to engage consumers with the hashtag, it only encouraged people to share company created content, not create their own. Individuals use social media primarily to create and share content that is personal to us. To improve this campaign, Prudential could have encouraged their customers to share their own local community’s “20 Stories of Strength.” This would have encouraged customers to get directly involved as well as expanded the campaign nationally or even globally. Prudential could have then retweeted or reposted these consumer generated stories on their social media.
The cause that Prudential is focusing on is growth and wealth generation in local communities. They achieve this by leveraging the partnerships that they share on their Instagram account. These local heroes are directly having an impact on the community and this is highlighted by Prudential’s campaign. They could create even more value by potentially coupling this campaign with a donation program. This donation program could even be linked to the number of likes a post receives. By directly donating to these organizations they are further facilitating impact.
The campaign is core to the company’s business objectives because as a financial institution their goal is to create wealth. They were also in the process of building a new headquarters. This campaign was meant to highlight the company as an asset to their local community. To improve the campaign they could have focused on what they have done to positively impact
the community in the past, and their intentions for the future.
My second example involves the Doritos brand and their #BoldandBetter campaign. Doritos launched this promotion to encourage customers to donate to the organization It Gets Better Project that focuses on LGBTQ issues. If a customer donated at least $10 they would be mailed a free bag of rainbow Doritos. (read more)
In this example, there is significant value generated for the consumer. The consumer is actively engaged with the impact through their donation; it is simply facilitated by Doritos. The customer is encouraged to use the hashtag to talk about the campaign as well as create his or her own content. This content creation happens through posting about their donation or even sharing pictures of themselves with their chips.
Doritos partnered with the organization It Gets Better. This organization is making strides around LGBTQ issues. Specifically they provide resources to young individuals who identify as LGBTQ, and to “create and inspire changes needed to make it better for them.” This organization is reputable and generates significant impact. The campaign not only promoted awareness but also generated income for an effective organization.
Pepsico owns Doritos and it is a chip brand competing in the food industry. LGBTQ issues are not automatically apparent as part of their core business strategy. Because of this, Doritos involvement as a brand was lost in translation. This does not allow for explicit value creation for the company. They did state that “Doritos supports the bold lives our fans lead- all of them.” If this statement had been made more apparent in the promotion of this campaign, it would have improved value for the company. This declaration clarifies the connection between Doritos and the cause.
My final example is of Ford’s #OneTankAdventures campaign. Ford issued this campaign by promoting adventure within “one tank of gas” away. They contracted YouTube star Devin Supertramp to create several videos and publish them on social media. (read more)
Ford engaged customers using the hashtag to create hype for the Devin Supertramp video. In addition to this they also encouraged customers to create their own content, share it on social media, and submit it to Ford. The campaign could have been improved by using the consumer-generated content to create additional videos. This would have encouraged even more customers to get involved because they have the chance to be featured.
This campaign had targeted two separate causes. The first goal was to get individuals outside and engaged with nature. The second goal was to highlight the importance of reduced gas consumption and global warming. The partnership with Devin Supertramp encouraged individuals to get outdoors and embrace nature but did not remedy environmental issues. They could have improved this by highlighting how Ford has impacted the environment by prioritizing fuel efficiency. They could also have connected this campaign with a potential exploration into alternative energy sources.
Ford effectively connects this campaign with their core business by reminding the consumer that Ford is what gets you to the adventure. They align “getting outdoors” with their rugged car brand, and “environmental concerns” with their dedication to fuel efficiency. This campaign consistently emphasizes that Ford’s business model is directly related to the cause.
You need all three players and methods to have a perfect campaign, however it seems that many companies are struggling to achieve this. Social media introduces the customer as a stakeholder to the traditional CSR model. In part this general limitation could be a result of a lack of effective model for companies to turn to for this niche campaign strategy. Is it even possible for companies to satisfy all three? Should we accept settling for two?
Social media creates an incredibly potential for customers and companies to create an impact in society and the environment.