If you speak to CSR executives you will commonly find the following aspirations:
- We want wider audiences to know and care about our CSR journey
- We want to build a trusted relationship with our stakeholders
- We want to get credit for the genuinely good work we’ve already done
In spite of these aspirations, the state of the current practice is to then proceed as though these aspirations didn’t exist, pushing out dull and data-heavy reports that may be useful to expert audiences, but not fit for purpose for the objectives above.
It’s the same way that most business leaders will say they are committed to building long-term value for the business, but then behave according to almost exclusively short-term priorities.
Social media is seen as a barely useful channel for amplifying your report – declaring its presence, or for announcing the latest charitable endeavor. And then when such messages fail to get a great deal of traction, it’s generally decided that ‘social media doesn’t work’, or at least not enough to get excited about.
This, of course, is nonsense.
Any digital marketer would be able to highlight straight away opportunities that the CSR community is passing up.
Here are 4 digital marketing realities that CSR teams would do well to learn.
1. You have to identify your objectives
If your objective is that you want wider audiences to know and care about your CSR journey, what does that actually mean?
How will you know if it’s been achieved?
How would you measure it?
Woolly objectives with no ability to measure success lead to inertia and lack of urgency.
How do you know if you have a trusted relationship with a stakeholder?
You don’t if you simply put up some pages for them to read and you just occasionally glance at your traffic stats.
You have to develop measures of engagement.
Marketers talk about the marketing funnel, where you take people from zero awareness of you to greater awareness, then interest, then active engagement.
Of course, in marketing terms the bottom of the funnel is when they become a customer. But that doesn’t have to be the only type of end point you identify.
2. Not all social media content has the same purpose
A lot of social media content is ‘top of the funnel’ content – it is designed to attract attention to a particular issue or problem. This sort of content would include blog posts, videos, Twitter campaigns, Instagram campaigns.
The content is designed to be attractive and engaging, to encourage people to see the headline and then act to read more.
The purpose of this content is to encourage people to take the next step to additional engagement. That’s why you will generally see a ‘call to action’ in prominent places in all such content where it has been professionally produced.
Very often, this is to encourage them to dive deeper into a higher value piece of content – often in exchange for their email address – providing value in return for permission to be in touch. This sort of content can include e-books, webinars, and mini-courses.
As you go deeper into the funnel, you may well come across content that requires a micro-payment. It seems such a small payment as to be a token, but marketers know that there is something powerful about making the transition, even at a very low level, from a passive observer to a customer.
Having crossed the barrier with a micro-payment, it makes it far more likely that the visitor will easily progress to becoming a full-blown customer.
If the aim, in CSR terms, is to get people who are interested in an issue to actively engage with the company, or otherwise to take direct action on the issue (to recruit them to work with the company to solve a problem), then a micro-transaction will take the form of a very easy light piece of engagement rather than a payment.
But the principle is exactly the same.
The point is this. Every piece of content produced on an issue or area of your social responsibility should have a clearly defined call to action. If you don’t have something in mind for what you want people to do next, you’re missing the point.
3. It’s all about building an email list
For all that, various forms of content – especially video – are hugely powerful engagers, the most effective thing you can do is get people whose interest you attract to give you permission to stay in touch. And then use that permission to update them on the issue they’ve said they’re interested in with timely, relevant and engaging content.
Once you’ve attracted them to sign up with something powerful, you can’t then revert to bombarding them with dull self-serving ‘aren’t we great’ style messaging.
You have to keep winning them over so that they actually open the emails you send, and click on the links to read more.
But the ability to reach out regularly with a human voice, with compelling and engaging content, and in such a way to build your regular, knowledgeable and passionate audience – is difficult - but it should be the principle aim of every CSR department out there.
What’s more, when you start looking at email open rates, and link click rates you begin to get solid metrics on how audiences are responding to your content – to identify which are the issues that are attracting people’s attention.
Rather than pumping reports out to a resounding silence, you can set engagement objectives that can be achieved – because there are known skills and techniques to help you achieve them.
You can even set up automated sequences – so if someone clicks on a link indicating interest in a specific topic, you can then add them to a group that gets sent a short sequence of follow-on messages providing a deep dive into that topic.
4. You still have to be smart about how you recruit people to take action
If you recruit people to take action on a cause they care about, you can get more emotional engagement than may easily be available to traditional marketers. But you still have to be cautious about doing so respectfully and in a way that your audience will find sympathetic.
If they believe you’re cynically co-opting a campaign for commercial ends, you can provoke an enormous backlash.
But if you can make messages about the cause, not about you, and you can show that you’re inviting people to join you on a journey, not simply to admire your brilliance, it can work well.
It doesn’t mean there will never be critical comments.
Twitter and YouTube particularly attract a very free-flowing background noise of the hyper-critical. But if you are genuinely focused on trying to create change, the positive voices will far outweigh the negative ones.
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