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Social Media Changing How Companies Engage with Consumers and NFPs

Thursday, 23rd August 2012 at 10:17 am
Staff Reporter
A UK report looks at how social media is being used by activists and Not for Profits to develop crisis campaigns and how companies are using the same tools to fight back.

Thursday, 23rd August 2012
at 10:17 am
Staff Reporter



Social Media Changing How Companies Engage with Consumers and NFPs
Thursday, 23rd August 2012 at 10:17 am

A UK report looks at how social media is being used by activists and Not for Profits to develop crisis campaigns and how companies are using the same tools to fight back.

Communications, Campaigns and Social Media: how companies respond to consumers and activists in a crisis – is a new report from Ethical Corporation and Useful Social Media.

The report looks at international examples and how activists – including Greenpeace, 38 Degrees, Invisible Children, MoxyVote and others – have used social media to mobilise campaigns and change policy and behaviour at companies such as Nestlé, Mattel, Facebook, Shell, as well as the UK Government.

The UK’s Ethical Corporation describes itself as an independent business intelligence company.

The report looks at the power of social media to harness genuine activism and galvanise change and examines the different ways in which campaigners use social media to draw attention to corporate behaviour around contentious issues and crises.

The report describes Greenpeace as one of the leading organisations “working hard at pulling different corporate levers, with varying degrees of success”.

The report says the Greenpeace campaign against Nestlé’s sourcing of palm oil and the role of social media in the wake of BP’s Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, spotlights some of the most popular campaigns and campaigners.

It says the ingredients that make such campaigns so virally compelling include satirical web videos to online petitions, the mobilisation of clicktivists into mini-marketplaces, and the convening of small shareholders to have more sway in the boardroom.

The report also looks at the challenges and lessons being learned by business. It identifies the demands and dynamics of social media, how it influences and cross-references traditional media and the need for businesses to see social media in context, rather than manage it in a silo.

In particular it uses the example of Coca-Cola developing social media strategies, and how specialist research tools are being used to help businesses map topics and sentiments and to anticipate potential hot-spots.

The report says critically, there is focus on the challenge of tone and the need for timely, empathetic dialogue to keep minds open and engaged on social media in times of confrontation.

The report also discusses the challenges for social media enterprises themselves, particularly as they face growing scrutiny and pressure around their own contentious issues, such as copyright infringement, privacy and their own approaches to corporate responsibility, sustainability and accountability.

The report found that the most popular social media channels for the senior corporate responsibility professionals are Facebook – used by 71 per cent of companies – followed by Twitter and LinkedIn – both used by 60 per cent of companies.

The survey says it has demonstrated how far some companies have prepared themselves for attack by social media campaigning. Of companies that had been subject to an attack, 20 per cent were completely unprepared, with 15 per cent fully engaged with the problem.

Gary Sheffer, GE’s vice-president of corporate communications reinforces this point about how social media is changing stakeholder relationships and particularly how to communicate with them.

He says: “It’s gone from command and control to more of a discussion with your stakeholders, both internally and externally, and social media has driven that change.

“You don’t own your brand exclusively anymore – it’s also owned by the folks on the internet who are talking about you every day. Every three seconds we see something posted online about GE – not all of it good – and so if you’re not out there engaging with people in discussion authentically, you’re losing out.”

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