Can promoting a corporation’s corporate social responsibility activities (“CSR”) using social media enhance brand image?
Yes, according to a study released by IBM consultants and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (“USCCF”).
In their study, The CSR Effect: Social Media Sentiment and the Impact on Brands, IBM and the USCCF reviewed social media content posted on social networking sites, public blogs, news boards, discussion forums and other social media outlets and examined the influence of corporate CSR activities, as communicated through social media, and public sentiment about corporate branding. Based on their analysis, the authors conclude that “there is real value for companies to strategically frame and discuss their CSR efforts online, and those efforts can improve brand image and company reputation.”
The study also finds that:
- Promoting CSR activities through social media has a greater impact on lowering neutral sentiment than it does in decreasing negative sentiment.
- Online conversations about social media mentions are episodic, they are made in response to specific corporate CSR projects and not in response to general corporate activities.
- With respect to corporate social activities, social media discussions about educational projects dominated CSR discussions, but, social media response to educational discussions tend to be very weak. Instead, social media response was strongest regarding corporate environmental activities. However, such chatter can be negative, if social media participants viewed corporate CSR activities as “greenwashing.”
- Most of the CSR-related discussion emanated from news sites. In fact, the study observes that among the numerous sources of social media that mentions corporate social activities, “company specific websites or blogs proved to be relatively unimportant in relation to the total volume of social conversation.”
- Overall neutral sentiment of a company can be shifted to positive sentiment by increasing the promotion of CSR project activities
- Companies can predict the expected volume of social media chatter based on their net income. The study notes a positive correlation between “chatter” and net income.