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Social responsibility, social media – can’t I just run my business how I used to? (Part 2)

Thanks for checking back in for a look at the hype behind social responsibility and social media. You can read part 1 here.

(Note that I’ve put on my “serious face” here—but I reserve the right to take it off without warning!)

It is possible that the ubiquitous online conversations about social responsibility and social media are mostly hot air; but a lot of big names have joined the discussions, and several international organizations, including the United Nations and the International Organization for Standardization, have developed guidelines or frameworks for “social accounting, auditing and reporting”. In Canada, Enbridge, Cadillac Fairview, all the major banks, Bell, Rogers, and many others have CSR policies that supposedly guide their behaviour and actions in the world at large. And Rogers recently hired a social media director, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has a strategy that engages fans via Facebook, and Research in Motion (makers of the Blackberry) has an official blog and fan community.

Now, these companies are all very large and very wealthy (and in the case of Bell and Rogers, supposedly very media-savvy), but large companies are also traditionally the most conservative with their resources—the least willing to spend money on untested investments. If they are actually putting their money where their mouths are—implementing social responsibility and social media strategies rather than just talking about them—and achieving results, this might be a reason to consider what your company could do to update its governance and marketing strategies.

Industry Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility: An Implementation Guide for Canadian Business can help you do that.

David Connor, a CSR consultant from the United Kingdom has written a series of articles on CSR and small business, trying to make the idea of social responsibility less threatening, confusing and frightening for business owners. Take a look at his “10 Top CSR Tips for Smaller Businesses“. They’re simple, and he doesn’t harp on about things—too much.

As for social media, well, you might have a whiz in your company without even knowing it. Canvassing your current employees for those knowledgeable in social media, and using their existing skills to your advantage is a win-win strategy—they’ll appreciate the opportunity to use their skills (social media are fun!) and you’ll get a foothold in this new world of marketing. Heck, if you’ve got kids, nieces or nephews between the ages of 8 and 35, you’ve probably got a social media consultant at hand. On the other hand, if you can’t find anyone who is interested, willing or informed, there are many helpful independent bloggers (i.e., not professional consultants!) who would be happy to help. As a business owner, you already know that you should never be afraid to ask.

There is another employment category that many employers might never consider, even though they probably help thousands of businesses every day: interns. Volunteer interns perform all kinds of work at all kinds of businesses, and as long as they gain experience in return, they will usually do these things gladly. You could find a social media intern just about anywhere, although communications and media students or recent graduates might be most appropriate; and many business students with CSR knowledge are no doubt looking for real-world experience. You might not be willing or able to pay interns, but you can both recognize the value of trading knowledge for time, especially in highly competitive times and difficult economic periods—any opportunity can lead to advantage in the marketplace.

Of course, you can certainly still run your business as you always have, and wait to see if corporate social responsibility and social media turn out to be passing trends. What’s more, maybe you don’t want to be on the cutting edge of marketing strategy—or don’t need to be. These things are up to you to decide.

So what about it? Is there too much hype about corporate social responsibility and social media? Will these ideas last? Can they do all they promise? And how has your company implemented or considered using CSR or social media?

Adam Gorley
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor

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Adam Gorley

Editor at First Reference
Adam Gorley, B.A. (Phil.), is a researcher, content provider and editor. He contributes regularly to First Reference Talks and Internal Control blogs, HRinfodesk and other First Reference publications. His areas of focus include broad human resources issues, corporate social responsibility, corporate governance and government policies, information technology and labour market trends.Read more
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