Social media and crowdsourcing play vital roles in helping companies raise awareness and drive engagement for their corporate social responsibility programs, according to executives surveyed for new research by Weber Shandwick’s social impact specialty group.


The survey of more than 200 corporate executives in large-sized companies with responsibility for philanthropic, social responsibility or community relations was conducted by KRC Research in October 2010 and found that a sizable 44 percent of companies have used crowdsourcing: asking customers to provide ideas and help in decision-making on how to tackle issues and achieve goals.

In addition, an overwhelming majority (95 percent) of executives who have used crowdsourcing found it valuable to the organization’s pro-social or CSR efforts.


When asked why crowdsourcing is valuable for CSR programs, executives say that it surfaces new perspectives and diverse opinions (36 percent), builds engagement and relationships with key audiences (25 percent), invites clients and customers from nontraditional sources to contribute ideas and opinions (22 percent) and it brings new energy into the process of generating ideas and content (16 percent).


Interestingly, those executives who have not yet used crowdsourcing (55 percent) also view this social media collaboration tool favorably, with 43 percent indicating that crowdsourcing could be valuable to their organization’s future CSR efforts.


 “As companies strive to create value through CSR efforts, it’s clear that many are also focused on how to create meaningful forms of social engagement with customers and other stakeholders,” says Weber Shandwick’s social impact co-founder Paul Massey. “Our research illustrates that companies see the value in crowdsourcing because it creates opportunities for immediate and direct dialogue with key audiences about CSR goals, strategies and impact.” 


The survey also explored how executives communicate their company’s CSR efforts with consumers, nonprofit partners, media, policymakers and influencers. Of the executives surveyed, 7 in 10 (72 percent) say social media has been used to communicate about their CSR efforts and 6 in 10 (59 percent) say it has a positive impact on the quality of their communications with consumers.


From their point of view, the primary value of using social media tools is that they create opportunities for companies to reach broad and diverse audiences (38 percent), allow companies to connect directly with consumers in low-cost efficient ways (29 percent) and enable companies to engage specific constituencies with greater ease (11 percent).


The research also examined the value of specific social platforms for engaging consumers. A significant 68 percent of executives agree that social media is an effective way of driving engagement with consumers and clients. Among those now using social media tools, they named Facebook as the most valuable social tool for doing this (67 percent) followed by blogs (60 percent), LinkedIn (58 percent), Twitter (46 percent) and FourSquare or other location-based services (44 percent).


 “Because of the vast adoption of social media, conversations about CSR are far more dynamic than ever before,” says Stephanie Bluma, co-founder of Social Impact. “Companies are now using social media to raise awareness and directly engage consumers by listening to what they have to say and incorporating that input into more effective programs.”