Social media has created its own space in the mainstream media with millions of users constantly engaged in communicating information from one place to another. In this era, nothing seems to be hidden or not talked upon on the social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. As of 2016, there are 3.4 billion internet users across the world and nearly 75% of them live in G20 countries. With new entrants such as Quora, WhatsApp, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. the game has just begun.
For businesses, social media has been a major marketing tool to promote themselves easily to a larger audience. In 2014, the forecast for investments in social advertising worldwide suggested to nearly double in a two-year time span, going from around 16 billion U.S. dollars to nearly 31 billion U.S. dollars in 2016. The United States is, by far, the largest social media advertising market in the world, as more than 9.4 billion U.S. dollars being spent on social media advertisements in the country in 2015 alone. In US, 9 out of 10 companies use social media for marketing purposes. Two US based organizations, Google and Facebook continue to be the world’s largest ad publishers.
The trend is not restricted to the western economies, rather over 80 percent of 120 companies listed on The Wall Street Journal’s Asia 200 Index are active on the social media platforms. Although, the numbers will be lesser in a developing country like India, yet quite a number of companies are actively participating in promotional activities on the social media platforms. In July 2016, the country’s digital advertising market was projected to grow at a CAGR of 35 per cent to reach Rs. 7,044 crore by the end of the year.
The growth has been steady since 2011 and digital advertising accounted for nearly 12 per cent of the total advertising spends in the country in 2015. Mr. John Rose, the Managing Director and Senior Partner – Boston Consulting Group suggests that due to the online distribution models the traditional news media companies are not getting their due share of revenue. On top of it, in future, it is expected that the online advertising market will increase rapidly with higher internet speed and penetration.
As the focus of companies is shifting towards increasing their brand equity or brand value by being socially accountable, it becomes crucial to inform the stakeholders about the social and environmental impact. Hence, strategies for communication requires alteration as well. Focusing on social media platforms, the businesses will look to highlight their CSR initiatives to the people of India. As the platforms provide direct opportunity to engage with the audience, the CSR initiatives will definitely be discussed upon. With the increase in awareness among consumers about the harmful impacts of the products and services, the corporations will be required to come clean for increasing outreach and enhancing brand loyalty.
For those, who have not been associated with online marketing, it might be difficult to analyze what kind of content will lead to higher engagement. Fiinovation believes that businesses can take the help of consulting firms which can develop strategies involving social media campaigns to communicate the impact of the CSR initiatives. The businesses can communicate information through Press Releases, Videos, Images, Info-graphics, Video-graphics, etc. as per the requirement of the social media campaign. Most of the recent surveys suggests that the consumers’ today notice the social work advertisements and behave accordingly. Not only they are looking at product and services that doesn’t cause any harm to the society and environment, but also are inquisitive on how the business is creating a shared value.
Although, CSR in India is completely different from cause marketing, yet some of the brands like KFC, ITC, etc. have been implementing such strategies. Similarly, CSR also comprises immense potential when it comes to attracting the consumers and impressing the stakeholders. In such a competitive environment constant innovation is a must and a good advertisement on CSR definitely helps the brand connect emotionally with the audience. For example, when JSW Steel wanted to highlight empowerment of women, they associated with Geeta Phogat, India’s first female Olympic wrestler from Haryana. The message of having a “Will Of Steel” might be directed towards all the girls in India, but the impact was equal irrespective of gender. Recently, Samsung came with its campaign #SapneHueBade highlighting its CSR contribution towards education and digital classrooms. Similarly, several others have also tried to inform the stakeholders about their CSR initiatives.
However, the work doesn’t end until the campaign is being propagated through the right mediums. This is where social media platforms play a crucial role in disseminating the information to the consumers. It is important to have the right kind of strategy as social media can lead to negative publicity if the audience find anything inappropriate. For increasing engagement and participation of the people, social media must be utilized as it is one of the easiest mediums with millions of subscribers. As a brand, it is important to be trend setter instead of following others. In order to create an everlasting impact on the minds of the consumers, the brand needs to be innovative with their CSR advertisements or communication materials. In today’s day and age, not many are interested in reading a CSR report filled with pictures of sunshine, solar panels, smiling multicultural employees, etc. These reports are a great start, but until a brand starts sharing the content in the most innovative form suited for the different social media platforms, they might not be considered trendy. Although, that doesn’t mean that traditional forms of media is not effective, but the power of social media cannot be undermined as well, especially when internet penetration is increasing at a good rate.
As in future the online advertisement and CSR will continue to grow, it is advisable that the brands associate with CSR consulting firms for developing the appropriate CSR communication strategies. As businesses will be looking to keep the stakeholders interested to purchase their product’s, to invest in the company or to support the organization’s social activities in their communities, the communication strategies should be dealt in a meaningful way to attract positive attention. Other advantages would be motivated employees, better relation with the communities and public agencies and better access of attracting investments.. With all these benefits, organizations’ shouldn’t be shying away from utilizing the social media platforms to their respective advantage.
“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” – Jeff Bezos
By Rahul Choudhury
Media & Communications, Fiinovation