dangling-feet-with-devicesYour online presence is important to your brand. From official communications right down to your employees’ postings, each blog, post, tweet, and pin can have an impact on how your brand is perceived. Just think: 74% of US adults use social media and that number is steadily rising. With that in mind, the need for your department and company to adopt a social media and communications strategy is great and growing.

The Millennial Factor
According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, about 92% of millennials say that they work for a company that makes a positive impact and rank cause work as the third most important factor in deciding to apply for a job. It becomes really interesting when you place the role of civic-minded millennials in the context of social media. Consider this: Generation Y believes their social network and voice are assets they can offer a cause, in addition to time, funds, and skills. The report also found that the average millennial spends about 4.2 hours a day social networking. Coupled with the fact that this group will account for over half of the workforce in the next year and you have a chance to work an active, socially conscious group into your CSR strategy.

A Little Something Called Trust
Now let’s consider the consumer tendency to trust employees of a company far more than the CEO or media representatives. The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer, found that employee credibility has increased 20% since 2009 while trust in the CEO lags behind by nearly 10%. Further, employees’ credibility is three times higher when providing information about a company’s employee programs, such as a giving program.

Your employees are proud of the good work your company does. In a 2010 report by the Center for Creative Leadership, employee perception of their organizations’ concern for social and environmental issues is directly linked to their commitment to the company. The report also found that employees are more eager to discuss their company with others if they perceive it as a good corporate citizen.

With that being said, the biggest mistake companies make in their giving initiatives is ignoring employee social advocacy. Employees will always discuss their employers. Whether it is done online or off, your department should take note and guide the conversation rather than ignore it.

How You Can Encourage Social Engagement
So what do you do with a workforce ready to shout about your social impact from the rooftops? You give them the channels and resources to do so! Picture these tools as rungs in the ladder leading up to the social rooftop:

  • Create dedicated online profiles for the charitable arm of your business. Companies like Microsoft and AOL do a great job of this on Twitter, using the handles @MicrosoftCitizenship and @AOLCSR respectively. Online profiles will tell employees and other stakeholders of initiatives and social impact, while providing a dedicated presence to interact with.
  • Educate, educate, educate, and then some. Your online presence is useless unless your employees know about it! Include all CSR account names and handles in related company publications, like newsletters, websites, and giving pages.
  • Put boots to the social ground. Encourage employees to share their experiences during charitable activities, such as marathons, and volunteer days. Publish pictures and take-aways from these activities to your online profiles. Chances are employees will repost and engage with these kinds of posts, multiplying your social reach! As an extra slam dunk, consider creating a hashtag dedicated to your efforts. This will give stakeholders and employees something specific to reference and help get your event trending.
  • Incorporate peer-to-peer fundraising into your philanthropy program. Empower employees to get their personal networks involved. They can rally their friends, families, and communities in support of company events, teams and altruistic initiatives through online fundraising pages. Since employees are already likely to speak highly of their company’s philanthropy, providing this function will help them get the word out better while increasing support for your program.
  • Create easily shareable social content. Infographics, videos, blog posts, and pictures are just a few ideas you can take on. Whatever the content, make it shareable and appealing. This will encourage employees to get involved in the conversation and break down the perceived “barrier-to-entry” for reluctant employees who may not know what to say online.

It’s important to make sure your employees are knowledgeable about your business and understand how to post in a brand-safe way. In addition to the above activities, your company should also provide social guidelines and training to employees. Using these tools, your social employees go from being simply engaged to all-star advocates of the good your company does. In turn, this can lead to enhanced employee engagement, a revitalized marketing strategy, a sales tool and a way to attract top talent. Talk about a win for the CSR department!

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