Social Media in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

February 13, 2012 - 2 Comments

This post was authored by my colleague Jessica Kelly (@JessGoddesse)

If you’re wondering why social media should be an key  part of your communications strategy, just note these current statistics demonstrating the ubiquity of the medium:

  • Facebook now boasts more than 800 million active users worldwide, and more than half of these log on to the network on any given day.
  • Twitter too is no slouch (and growing), with 200 million registered users, one quarter of whom tweet daily.

Want more justifying numbers? A recent infographic on MediaBistro lists more compelling stats―like, say, the fact that 56% of consumers are likely to recommend a brand to a friend after becoming a fan on Facebook, and 20% of marketers have closed sales using Twitter.

Given that social media networks are timely (if not immediate) communications platforms that are interactive, and therefore― if used correctly (that is, authentically)―engaging, their success in marketing should come as no surprise.

But what about moving beyond sales, using social media as an integral component of a comprehensive CSR program? Here’s how some well-known corporations are doing just that (as noted in parts one and three of a Carbon Outreach blog series on social media for social good):

Large companies like AmEx, Apple, Dell, Gap, and Nike have worked with (RED) to create (PRODUCT)RED-branded products. Up to 50% of the gross profits from sales of these products goes to a global fund to fight AIDS. To date, (RED) has successfully generated $180 million for the global fund.

Seventh Generation’s social media strategy is designed to engage and educate its target audience on ethical, environmentally friendly cleaning products, with an end goal of slotting Seventh Gen into that industry’s leadership position.

Starbucks uses Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to deliver education (and achieve industry leadership) around ethical coffee making and distribution. Starbucks also has its own community, MyStarbucksIdea, where users can share ideas. With hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers and millions of Facebook fans, Starbucks is a social superstar whose success is referenced by the likes of the Brand Channel, Carbon Outreach,  Mashable, Social Media Examiner, and The Next Web.

Like Starbucks, Cisco sponsors its own community as part of a larger CSR effort. Cisco’s is a Web destination where education leaders connect  to improve education access, equity, and quality worldwide. The site hosts affinity groups and discussions, blogs, daily news, and resources on a range of relevant topics, including education policy, educational technology, and media literacy. While small in comparison to the campaigns of, for example, Starbucks, has a targeted and highly engaged social media following, as evidenced by SocialMention scores that far surpass the big boys on the pillars of audience sentiment and passion.

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  1. Charlie –

    I enjoyed reading your blog post. Thank you for providing practical examples of companies that are using social media as a part of their corporate social responsibility plan. It was interesting to read and learn more about companies like Nike, Starbucks, Cisco, Apple, and Dell.

    In The handbook of communication (Cheney, May, & Munshi, 2010), Christensen, Morsing, and Thyssen describe organizations as systems of communication.

    “In discussing corporate social responsibility, our point of departure is systems theory according to which organizations are autopoietic systems of communication. Communication, in this view, is not something an organization does once in a while, in between other important activities, but is constitutive of all organizational life and sense making. The theory of autopoiesis was originally formulated by Chilean biologists Maturana and Varela (1980). According to them, all living systems are autopoietic.” (p. 459)

    I think companies’ use of social media as part of their corporate social responsibility plans is an excellent way to engage in continuous two-way communication and discussion. In what ways do you see this social media use as fulfilling the belief that organizations are autopoietic systems of communication?

    I look forward to reading your response.

    Amy Grabowski
    Graduate Student
    Drury University

    Christensen, L.T., Morsing, M., & Thyssen, O. (2010). The polyphony of corporate social responsibility. In G. Cheney, S. May, & D. Munshi (Eds.), The handbook of communication ethics (pp. 457-474). New York: Routledge

  2. This is a great initiative from the above mentioned concerns. I particularly liked how Starbucks is using the social media to educate people about ethical coffee making and distribution. Thanks for sharing this informative post. It is indeed a great read.