Social Media Shortcuts for Stakeholder Engagement

Ed note: Interested in learning more about how to embed stakeholder engagement in your company’s sustainability reporting? Consider getting a certification in GRI sustainability reporting.

Stakeholder engagement is the thorn in the side of many a sustainability reporter. While other sections of a GRI report are quantitative and data driven (energy usage, legal compliance), stakeholder engagement is messy, time consuming and in some cases not very effective. If you’ve ever put together an employee or customer survey, you know how difficult and expensive it can be to truly get representative information about what your stakeholders care about. Yet, if you’ve studied the GRI’s G3 Guidelines on reporting , you know that proper stakeholder engagement is the key to determining what is material, that is, what are the most important things your company should be focusing on from a sustainability standpoint.

As if that weren’t enough, in the connected world of social media, your brand is less and less under your control. Your reputation will be decided by a myriad of stakeholders: activists, customers, rogue employees, fans and critics alike. Learning to treat these stakeholders conversationally is the key to success.

How can you effectively and efficiently reach out to employees, customers, NGOs, supply chain members, and the media?

Conversational engagement with stakeholders is the key to true sustainability reporting and brand management.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be hard. Conversations among your stakeholders about your brand are already happening online, on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs. All you have to do is listen.

At first glance the digital media world is a fire hose of disorganized information fraught with hearsay, chatter of dubious quality, and confusion. You may already be engaging with stakeholders on Twitter or Facebook. If you are, congratulations, you’re half the way there. However, there’s another step-making sense of all these millions of one on one conversations.

Online Conversation Data Mining

Technology is moving just as fast as our need for better information and it’s now possible to data mine and capture meaning from online conversations with the click of a few buttons.

Tools like SAS Social Media Analytics and Social Mention capture the tone of the online conversation to give you a snapshot of if your branding or CSR efforts are being received and whether or not the news is positive.

Social Mention snapshot of the Walmart Conversation

To test this out, I did a quick search for the keyword “Walmart” a few weeks ago, and you can see a screenshot of the results at right. The screen displays the most recent tweets, related Facebook status updates and other mentions from the moment I searched. Social Mention goes beyond just collecting the data and gives you some tools to make sense of the tone of the conversation. Strength is the likelihood your brand is being discussed. Sentiment is the number of positive comments to negative comments, 3 to 1 is pretty good. Passion is the likelihood that the users who are talking about your brand will do so repeatedly and reach is how powerful they are, so these are casual users with moderately powerful digital media presences. I also did a search for “Walmart CSR” on the day the company released their most recent sustainability report.

search the same day, for "walmart CSR"

The number of people talking is smaller, but they have double the passion score, and the comment ratio jumps from 3:1 to 20:1. Quite impressive.

This type of tool can be used to take a litmus test of how your organization is doing in the court of public opinion *or* to highlight super-evangelists or super critics, a company’s most powerful stakeholders so they can be engaged.

Meeting customers where they are
Once you’ve mastered listening to your customers, then you can move on to actively increasing their engagement with your brand. There are a thousand ways to do so (and we’ll post some tips in another post) but I’ll leave you with an inspirational example of authentic customer engagement that is also having a measurable impact on ROI.

Paula Deen engages Philadelphia customers on You Tube

The Philadelphia Channel on Youtube engaged Paula Deen for its Real Women of Philadelphia campaign. The campaign encouraged women to upload cooking demonstrations with Philadelphia Cream cheese for a chance to win $25,000. The launch video on You Tube was seen by 51 million people, thousands of woman participated, and the uploaded recipes were viewed 25 million times.

Some critics might say that this is pure marketing, and it is, but it’s also first class, authentic customer engagement.

It’s also an excellent example of how sustainability reporting initiatives like customer engagement can have a positive impact on ROI. There’s real money behind these traffic numbers- Real Women helped boost Philly’s revenue by 5%, the first material lift in five years.

Readers: What social media tools do you use to engage with customers? companies?

Jen Boynton

Jen Boynton is editor in chief of TriplePundit and editorial director at 3BL Media. With over 6 million annual readers, TriplePundit is the leading publication on sustainable business and the Triple Bottom Line. Prior to TriplePundit, Jen received an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. In her work with TriplePundit she's helped clients from SAP to PwC to Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA -- court appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

One response

  1. Great article Jen. Stakeholder engagement is indeed a messy process…lots of overlapping interests and groups and factors to consider.

    Do you see customer engagement just one aspect of stakeholder engagement (since customers are one group of stakeholders?) Or do you think there’s a difference between CSR-related stakeholder engagement and customer engagement (which I would see as marketing? i.e. Philadelphia YouTube Channel.)

    I’d love to see good examples of Social Media tools being used in innovative ways for CSR-related stakeholder engagement, especially in places where people are being affected by development projects.

Leave a Reply