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Social media the next frontier for social responsibility

Social media has practically been used in every way known to man. It is not surprising, therefore, that the next phase in social media usage lies in businesses’ corporate social responsibility portfolios.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a form of self-regulation incorporated into a company’s business model. The goal of CSR is to embrace responsibility for the company’s actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public.

Companies often seek innovative ways to carry out CSR programmes, as well the best ways to get members of the community involved. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter seem a natural option when it comes to new and interesting ways to be socially responsible.

Global technology company, Intel, has embraced social media as a means of promoting its corporate responsibility. Intel’s Director of Corporate Responsibility, Michael Jacobson, was quoted in top tech site, Mashable, saying: “There was a time when we only focused on reducing own environmental footprint. Today, we look for ways to help reduce CO2 emissions across the board, and we do that by talking with our stakeholders individually through social media.”

Wolfstar Consultancy, a PR company specialising in social media strategies, recently released a report on how FTSE Global 500 companies are using social media and social networks to support their corporate social responsibility activity.

According to the report: “Although only 46 companies were found to be consciously using social media to support their corporate social responsibility activity, other companies within the FTSE Global 500 were using some social techniques in isolation.”

The report further stated that: “Approximately 60% of the companies were using some form of social activity within their online CSR strategy; the most popular being RSS feeds (107 companies) and embedded video (102 companies). Much of this, though, was done in isolation and seemingly with no real strategy or objectives.”

South Africa’s Property24, a Naspers owned property portal part of the company’s 24 brand, is trying its hand at social media inspired CSR. The 24 brand uses Facebook and Twitter as the social media outlets with which it communicates with readers. So when it came to finding a new way for Property24 to implement its CSR campaign social media was “an obivous choice” according to the General Manager of business development for Property24, David Gibbons.

Gibbons spoke to Memeburn about the new project called “Clicks for Bricks“, where individuals are encouraged to “Like” Property24’s Facebook page and in return the company donates R5 to Habitat for Humanity South Africa — a non-profit organisation dedicated to building homes for people in need — for every “like”.

“Social media has helped the South African marketing industry think about marketing and social media and community based campaigns. It has changed the way we promote brands online and our we engage with our audiences. However we’re about five years behind the world in our use of social media in a corporate sense,” said Gibbons.

According to Gibbons, the aim is to get 18 200 likes which translates into R91 000 (approximately US$13 243) to aid Habitat for Humanity South Africa in building a home for a family that needs it.

The “Clicks for Bricks” page has more than 7 000 likes at the moment and its legion of dedicated followers are busy spreading the word by tweeting the page link and urging their friends to like the page as well.

According to Gibbons, the Property24 team is “overwhelmed” by the amount of support the project has received from the public and hopes that the 18 200 landmark will reached.

This project, and others like it, is another example of our social media is finding its way into every aspect of our lives.

Below is a video showing the Habitat for Humanity SA group at work.

Author | Mich Atagana

Mich Atagana
Mich started out life wanting to be a theoretical physicist but soon realized that mathematics was required. So, she promptly let go of that dream. She then decided that law might be the best place for her talents, but with too many litigation classes missed in favour of feminist... More
  • Isn’t this just publicising their initiatives? CSR for “likes” sounds like it is transferring the responsibility onto the consumer… Nothing new, just guilt marketing.

  • Simon Espley

     “Clicks for Bricks“ as described above is illegal ito FB rules.  You cannot bribe your way to compiling likes.

  • In a monetary system, democracy is an illusion perpetuated to give the populace a feeling of participation in a so-called democratic process.

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  • @Marc – I guess we could have simply donated the R91K, checked the CSR box for the year and added one new home to the 2M+ shortfall we have in SA but we wanted to do more than that. As a consumer brand, we realized that our reach in the housing business could also be valuable to raising awareness for Habitat for Humanity. Consider that celebrities endorse charities for exactly this reason; because the publicity they lend is potentially more valuable than any financial contribution they could make. Likewise, consumer brands are becoming recognized personalities via social media. I personally think it would be awesome to see more brands lend some of their public recognition to public good.  

    @Simon – We did look into it. Facebook page terms actually encourage promotion of businesses and charitable organizations. Have a read through the terms – let me know which of these you’re referring to: http://www.facebook.com/terms_pages.php)

  • Hi David
    I hear your point, the publicity is probably more valuable than the actual money. But then, why not allow the public the option to donate some of their own in addition to your contribution? My point was that the use of social media in CSR is not really “new”, just flavoured marketing and PR…
    But, I hear you & well done for doing (at least) something that causes discussion.

  • I hear you and there’s nothing stopping folks from giving but you make a really good point; we should be explicitly promoting donations to HFHSA to the folks who show interest in Clicks for Bricks. I’ll try to get that link added to the site. Thanks for the suggestion.

    For anyone reading who may be interested in donating to Habitat for Humanity South Africa, you’ll find more details here: http://www.habitat.org.za/Page.php?pageID=11

  • Nice one!

  • Marc – we’re adding another tab to promote HFHSA’s volunteering and donation opportunities. Thanks for sparking that idea! 

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