For our strategic CSR class, my team is working with a major apparel company to develop a new social media strategy that will increase awareness and engagement around existing CSR efforts, for both employees and customers.

Although our primary client contacts are excited about the potential for harnessing the power of social media, they’ve warned us that the company traditionally has been very “communication shy” and that we may face an uphill battle in convincing the powers-that-be to embrace new technologies that would require them to engage with the public more informally and react in real-time.

Obviously any major change in corporate mindset is challenging, but it is our job to demonstrate that the advantages of a strong social media strategy far outweigh the perceived risks. The business case is compelling, and can be summarized by the following “Top 6 Reasons to Embrace Social Media”:

  1. The conversation is already happening.
    Whether companies know it or not, they are already participating in social media. United learned this lesson the hard way when a disgruntled customer, who was refused compensation when his guitar was damaged in flight, created a YouTube video complaint that got 8.3 million views, and resulted in a 10% drop in United’s stock. Actively participating in social media outlets allows companies to participate in online dialogue and proactively mitigate damage to their reputations.
  2. Reach new customers
    Research shows that the highly coveted customer segments of LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) and Millennials are big users of social media and that online is their medium of choice. What’s more, social media has now surpassed email in terms of global reach.
  3. Strengthen the brand and increase sales
    More than 90% of consumers seek advice from peers before making a purchase, and social media is increasingly becoming the most popular forum for finding reviews. In addition, there is compelling data demonstrating that participants in social media are more loyal customers – readers and posters are 30% and 80% more likely to purchase, respectively.
  4. Engage with customers
    Starbucks’ “My Starbucks Idea” website provides an excellent example of how social media can be used to seek and act on customer suggestions, making consumers feel heard and appreciated.
  5. Motivate employees
    Likewise, Best Buy saw impressive results from creating the “watercooler,” an internal forum for sharing news and ideas and facilitating employee competitions. For instance, an employee-produced video contest on contributing to 401ks led to an enrollment jump from 18% to 47%.
  6. Cut costs
    Last but certainly not least, social media is far less expensive than traditional forms of advertising, such as television commercials and print ads. It’s hard to find more “bang for your buck” than on Facebook or Twitter.

With such clear benefits to the business, at such low cost, more and more companies are embracing the power of social media. Hopefully our client will be next.


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